24 June 2009

Floor action, Jun. 24: SB 194, HB 516, SB 228, others

SB 194 by Sen. Sharon Weston Broome would provide a tax credit on corporate franchise taxes for employers who gave time off to employees to attend family school activities, amended to a maximum of 4 days a month, the lesser of $45 per hour or 1.5 times the hourly wage, explained handler Rep. Cedric Richmond. Rep. Kirk Talbot said this meant the state would be paying for parents to do what they were supposed to be doing anyway, which Richmond disputed. Talbot also wondered how enforceable it would be, and explained why. Richmond said he thought the Department of Revenue could find ways to enforce it.

Richmond returned the bill to the calendar he said to add amendments to address enforcement. After some goofing off concerning Rep. Page Cortez’s maiden turn as acting Speaker, Richmond brought up the bill again and said he was mistaken about the amendments. Rep. Hunter Greene asked whether it was voluntarily and how narrowly defined; Richmond gave him the answers he already knew that it was and tightly defined.

The bill passed 88-6.

HB 516 by Rep. Patrick Williams became a haven for hitchhikers in the Senate, after garnering the necessary two-thirds vote in each chamber to be considered after the 57th day. It came from the House dealing with funds to address autism research and childhood obesity, but in committee picked up another request to create a fund to address building needs for statewide facilities which was promptly reversed.

Then, Sen. Lydia Jackson got an amendment based on a bill that had been sponsored by Sen. Cheryl Gray Evans dealing with the startup of a Technology Commercialization Fund that would have drawn money from failed tobacco taxes. It would permit funding up to $250,000 a year. It also restored the building fund. It passed 17-10. Then Sen. Edwin Murray took as an amendment one of his bills that had made it out of the Senate but got sat on by the House to create a fund to assist retirees of public school systems in Orleans, Cameron, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard because the systems were having trouble doing so with big increases in premiums. It failed 13-19. The bill then passed 28-8.

SB 228 by Gray Evans would create tax credits for renters, designed particularly for those who are renting while their houses are being renovated from 2005-08 storms, capped at $330. Handler Richmond was asked by Rep. Hunter Greene if it was possible, since the Legislature and governor were being stingy in giving out tax credits. Richmond said they needed the help and should get it at least a little, and it was “only” $495,000 cost to the state.

The bill failed 43-39, and Richmond asked to reconsider.

SB 245 by Sen. Robert Adley was presented by its identical bill HB 898 author, Rep. Cameron Henry. A couple of amendments that altered it slightly were put on, which Henry explained was agreed to by Adley and the governor who would choose which to sign.

Richmond asked whether Henry thought it was worth it if the state projected giving out $20 million in credits, in contrast to less than a half million as projected under SB 228. Henry said he did think it was worth it. Rep. Mert Smiley argued that there was a bidding war going on that the state really could not win, and that the state’s infrastructure and scenery would be enough to attract many producers. Henry thought the increase to 30 percent on the table now would bring in more benefits than costs.

The bill passed 73-8.

Meanwhile, the Senate refused 14-20 to reconsider after the 57th day HB 779 by Speaker Jim Tucker. This bill would reconstitute the Ports of New Orleans and Plaquemines, a favored cause of the Speaker. Perhaps not coincidentally, at the same time it was learned Gov. Bobby Jindal had vetoed in HB 1 provisions the Senate had placed into it opposed by Tucker.

It didn’t get a fair hearing, like most bills from the House side.
Rep. Nickie Monica, tacking on a bill of his to a Senate bill that had narrowly failed in Senate committee, later ruled not germane by Speaker Tucker.

I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Mr. Monica again.
Tucker, noting there were perhaps more compatible bills on which Monica could get his hitchhiker picked up by.

We’re about 83 percent optimistic now
Sen. Mike Michot, about resolving the budget impasse.

That would be a three-run homer.
Rep. Jeff Arnold, in the chair, during debate in response to a big cheer coming from outside the chamber, after LSU took a 3-0 lead in the deciding game of the College World Series.

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