10 June 2009

Committee action, Jun. 10: SB 256, HB 591, HB 852, others

SB 256 by Sen. Edwin Murray would allow an existing district that could levy an extra tax to be placed upon property owners (except those with special homestead exemptions) in the French Quarter and Fauborg Marigny neighborhoods in New Orleans. A several-tiered structure of fess would be imposed, paid directly or passed on to renters, after an affirmative vote of the owners. The funds would go to public safety activities above and beyond the City of New Orleans’. Money to start this up had been vetoed last year, hence the bill to create some self-governance rather than legislative fiat. It was by the House Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs approved without objection.

HCR 142 by Rep. Rick Nowlin would get the state to review utilization of waiver personal care services, in terms of exploring new kinds of waivers, to continue cost containment measures, and to report back. Nowlin hoped the information would be useful to delay institutionalization and to make sure it was done efficiently. Currently, there are 21,000 people on waiting lists, yet costs were still higher than in comparable states, so better utilization would occur to shorten the lists. The resolution would help to spur progress on this, it was argued to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

A couple sets of amendments were offered dealing with processes and reporting, and were accepted with objection. It was reported without objection.

HCR 6 by Rep. Mike Danahay would attempt to streamline state civil service. It would direct the Department of State Civil Service to demote the role of seniority in the layoff process (already done by the State Civil Service Commission), revise the classification and pay grade systems to make them more flexible as jobs change in nature, revise the compensation system to more evenly distribute merit pay raises instead of the current all-or-nothing system that gives almost everybody a raise, and to place more emphasis on accurate assessment of job performances by supervisors. It was by the approved by the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee without objection.

His companion measure HCR 98 would require reporting how annual reviews tied into the performance evaluation and determination of merit increases of classified employees. It also was approved without objection and both were commented upon as being long overdue and necessary directives.

HB 591 by Rep. Noble Ellington would create an exception to ethics laws that would allow legislators to receive more than $50 per day in food and drink if it was an event in conjunction with a meeting as an “honoree.” He offered an amendment to say it had to be with at least 10 people invited to the meeting. It also would include people such as legislative assistants (note that Ellington’s is his wife).

Sen. Jack Donahue asked how terms like “honoree” and “invitation” were determined. Ellington said he thought it was somebody on a program. The amendment was approved without objection, and so was the bill.

HB 852 is Rep. Mert Smiley’s annual exercise to pare the state of boards and commissions that don’t meet and/or seem to have outlived their usefulness. But Smiley was absent to present the bill, and some thought he wanted it deferred. But Sen. Jody Amedee said he was authorized to present the bill and did so, and then said he had an amendment that was incredibly narrowly drawn to help a constituent regain a license after leaving the state, continuing to practice and be certified elsewhere, returning but finding she could not get relicensed. After some question about germaneness and the applicability of the exemption, the amendment, and then the bill, was adopted without objection.

I know it won’t make any difference, but I’d thought I’d just bring it up.
Ellington, mentioning he had once chaired the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee that heard his bill.

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