27 June 2009

Legislative regular session through Jun. 27, 2009

We’re safe again, the Legislature is out of session. HB 802 also is going to be removed from the list of bad bills because it started out with certain objectionable features, got those replaced by others, but in the end actually probably was more good than bad. In addition, so will SB 296 as changes made to it along the way may have the effect, under certain economic conditions, of not costing the state more money even if the payoff period for some of it is pushed back 11 years. So let’s see how it dealt with good and bills before completely turning things over to the governor.

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 765 had rules suspended to report with minor amendments from Senate committee, with minor amendments passed the Senate, had concurrence refused by the House, had conference report accepted by the House and Senate; HB 902 had rules suspended to report with minor amendments from Senate committee, with minor amendments passed the Senate, had concurrence by the House, and was sent to the governor; HB 903 had rules suspended to report with minor amendments from Senate committee, with minor amendments passed the Senate, had concurrence by the House, and was filed with the Secretary of State; SB 1 with minor amendments passed House committee; with minor amendments passed the House, and had the Senate refuse concurrence; SB 2 passed House committee, passed the House, and was sent to the governor; SB 34 passed the House and had concurrence rejected by the Senate; SB 183 was passed by the House; SB 195 with minor amendments passed the House, had concurrence by the Senate and was sent to the governor; SB 223 passed the House, had concurrence by the Senate and was sent to the governor; SB 267 passed House committee, passed the House, had concurrence by the Senate and was sent to the governor.

THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 458 had rules suspended to report from Senate committee, with minor amendments passed the Senate, had concurrence by the House, and was sent to the governor; HB 538 with minor amendments passed the Senate, had concurrence by the House, and was sent to the governor; HB 591 had concurrence by the House and was sent to the governor; HB 612 had conference report accepted by the House and Senate; HB 689 had the House ask the Senate to recede its amendments, the Senate refused to recede, and the House refused to concur. HB 898 had rules suspended to report with minor amendments from Senate committee, with minor amendments passed the Senate, had concurrence by the House, and was sent to the governor; SB 245 with minor amendments passed House committee; with minor amendments passed the House, had the Senate refuse concurrence, and had conference report accepted by the House and Senate; SB 256 passed the House, had concurrence by the Senate and was sent to the governor; SB 259 passed the House, had concurrence by the Senate and was sent to the governor; SB 277 passed the House, had concurrence by the Senate and was sent to the governor.

SCORECARD
Total number of bills, House: 904; total number of bills, Senate: 351.

Total number of good bills, House: 34; total number of good bills, Senate: 18.

Total number of bad bills, House: 45; total number of bad bills, Senate: 20.

Total House good bills heard in House committee: 29; total Senate good bills heard in Senate committee: 12.

Total House bad bills heard in House committee: 39; total Senate bad bills heard in Senate committee: 14.

Total House good bills passed by House committee: 12; total Senate good bills passed by Senate committee: 9.

Total House bad bills passed by House committee: 14; total Senate bad bills passed by Senate committee: 8.

Total House good bills approved by House: 9; total Senate good bills approved by Senate: 8.

Total House bad bills approved by House: 10; total Senate bad bills approved by Senate: 8.

Total House good bills heard in Senate committee: 8; total Senate good bills heard in House committee: 8.

Total House bad bills heard in Senate committee: 9; total Senate bad bills heard in House committee: 7.

Total House good bills approved by Senate committee: 8; total Senate good bills approved by House committee: 7

Total House bad bills approved by Senate committee: 9; total Senate bad bills approved by House committee: 7

Total House good bills approved by Senate: 5; total Senate good bills approved by House: 7.

Total House bad bills approved by Senate: 8; total Senate bad bills approved by House: 6.

Total House good bills going to governor: 4; total Senate good bills going to governor: 4.

Total House bad bills going to governor: 7; total Senate bad bills going to governor: 6.

Total House good bills signed by governor/filed with Secretary of State: 0; total Senate good bills signed by governor/filed with Secretary of State: 0.

Total House bad bills signed by governor/filed with Secretary of State: 0; total Senate bad bills signed by governor/filed with Secretary of State: 1.

25 June 2009

Floor action, Jun. 24: HCR 134

DID YOU KNOW
The Legislature is out of session. Our wallets are safe again from trespass.

Yesterday, during a pause in the action while the House was waiting on business to come back from the Senate, Rep. Barbara Norton asked for a moment of presonal privilege. This is not uncommon for a memebr to utilize to recognize somebody outside of the body, and late in the session often is a tool to use to stall for time when waiting for something else to happen. Norton, accompanied by Rep. Roy Burrell, introduced Shreveport's "Hurricane" Chris Dooley, charting now for the second time with the rap tune "Halle Berry (She's Fine)." After a false start, Dooley talked a little about the song and then played it (see it here). Norton praised him for his "great works."

It was hard to hear the lyrics, they didn't seem to be quite the original ones, and they weren't all of them (read them here). Just something to ponder as the House took in Norton's HCR 134 honoring Dooley.

24 June 2009

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

DID YOU KNOW?
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.

DID YOU KNOW?
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.

DID YOU KNOW
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.

DID YOU KNOW?
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.

DID YOU KNOW?
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.

QUOTES OF THE DAY:
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.

22 June 2009

Floor action, Jun. 22: HB 827, SB 5

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 827 by Rep. Scott Simon would allow the disabled to register more easily in nursing homes (currently it must be done at a homestead if it is claimed) and to be assisted in voting. For the second time during this day’s session Sen. David Heitmeier proposed an amendment to require people running for office to have to file for income taxes. Sen. Mike Walsworth asked how it would be administered, pointing out the burdens it would place on clerks of court and the Secretary of State’s office. Heitmeier said it was not his concern, but that anybody having the privilege of serving in office should file their taxes.

Presenting the bill, Sen. Jack Donahue said its originator, the Secretary of State, preferred a clean bill and that Heitmeier could introduce his own legislation for this the next year. Heitmeier claimed the office had no objection to his amendment. It then carried 27-7. Despite that, Donahue pressed on and got a 37-0 vote to pass the bill.

DID YOU KNOW?
SB 5 by Sen. Neil Riser would enable amending of the constitution to allow the Legislature to meet two weeks earlier and adjourn as late as two weeks earlier, for both kinds of sessions, taking effect next term. Rep. Avon Honey asked presenter Rep. Noble Ellington asked why make the changes, who said he didn’t know, and didn’t know of any cost savings.

Rep. Damon Baldone asked about how it would conflict with Carnival season. Ellington said Riser had worked to make a compromise date, and this was it. After adoption of a technical amendment, Rep. Page Cortez asked how this would affect fiscal procedures, such as the Revenue Estimating Conference dates. Ellington said he thought the dates also took this into consideration.

Rep. Mert Smiley pointed out in questioning that Louisiana’s start and end dates were about the latest of all the states. Ellington repeating pretty much everything he and everybody else had said. After a lockout request yielded a quorum, the bill failed 56-38 and Ellington asked for reconsideration.

QUOTES OF THE DAY
It’ll get a lot of daddies home earlier.
Ellington’s summation of SB 5.

And I am here.
Speaker Jim Tucker, after naming off almost 20 representatives names as being present during the SB 5 quorum call.

I don’t know.
Rep. Walker Hines, when offering an amendment to SB 136, which its presenter Rep. Jeff Arnold said was designed to kill the bill if accepted, asked whether he would vote for the amended bill, which drew catcalls from the House.

20 June 2009

Legislative regular session through Jun. 20, 2009

Because of political hijinks, HB 689, previously neither meritorious to be termed “good” nor injurious enough to be tagged “bad,” mutated into a virulent form. It was added to the list of bad bills.

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 148 was sent to the governor; HB 340 failed to be concurred in by the Senate and headed to conference; HB 903 with minor amendments passed the House; SB 34 with minor amendments passed committee; SB 195 with minor amendments passed House committee.

THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 179 passed Senate committee and the Senate; HB 591 with minor amendments passed the Senate HB 689 with major amendments passed the Senate; HB 841 passed Senate committee; HB 855 was sent to the governor; HB 889 with minor amendments failed to pass the House; SB 43 passed the House; SB 199 passed House committee; SB 277 with minor amendments passed House committee; SB 296 passed the House.

SCORECARD
Total number of bills, House: 904; total number of bills, Senate: 351.

Total number of good bills, House: 34; total number of good bills, Senate: 18.

Total number of bad bills, House: 46; total number of bad bills, Senate: 21.

Total House good bills heard in House committee: 29; total Senate good bills heard in Senate committee: 12.

Total House bad bills heard in House committee: 40; total Senate bad bills heard in Senate committee: 15.

Total House good bills passed by House committee: 11; total Senate good bills passed by Senate committee: 9.

Total House bad bills passed by House committee: 15; total Senate bad bills passed by Senate committee: 9.

Total House good bills approved by House: 8; total Senate good bills approved by Senate: 8.

Total House bad bills approved by House: 11; total Senate bad bills approved by Senate: 9.

Total House good bills heard in Senate committee: 6; total Senate good bills heard in House committee: 4.

Total House bad bills heard in Senate committee: 9; total Senate bad bills heard in House committee: 8.

Total House good bills approved by Senate committee: 3; total Senate good bills approved by House committee: 3

Total House bad bills approved by Senate committee: 7; total Senate bad bills approved by House committee: 7

Total House good bills approved by Senate: 2; total Senate good bills approved by House: 0.

Total House bad bills approved by Senate: 3; total Senate bad bills approved by House: 3.

Total House good bills going to governor: 0; total Senate good bills going to governor: 0.

Total House bad bills going to governor: 1; total Senate bad bills going to governor: 1.

Total House good bills signed by governor: 0; total Senate good bills signed by governor: 0.

Total House bad bills signed by governor: 0; total Senate bad bills signed by governor: 1.

17 June 2009

Committee action, Jun. 17: HB 896, HCR 1, HB 520

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 896 by Rep. Dee Richard would relax ethics requirements for financial reporting for a small number of local officials. The problem as he saw he told the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee it was because of the various population cutoffs for different tiers of reporting for city councils that had single member districts and those elected city-wide. As a result, they were in different tiers, and the bill sought to put the at-large members into the lower, less demanding tier of reporting.

However, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office was against the change, a representative from it testifying it was premature to consider making changes to ethics law just passed last year. But there was no objection from the committee to its passing.

DID YOU KNOW?
HCR 1 by Rep. Franklin Foil would create a study commission for a state constitutional revision and a set of recommendations for a convention if one is deemed desirable, by the beginning of next year. He asked for an amendment to slightly change the composition of the committee, provided by Sen. Jack Donahue, which was accepted without rejection. Sen. Edwin Murray also wanted another language change to clarify the amount of authority the commission would have over the Legislature’s resources which also was adopted without objection. Sen. Lydia Jackson wanted to add two more members, representing business and nonprofits, and that too faced no opposition.

But when it came time to vote, Sen. Jody Amedee offered a substitute motion to defer. It failed when all those who had amendments adopted voted against it with Amedee the lone supporter. It then passed without objection.

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 520 by Rep. Greg Cromer would allow voters to change information on their records by electronic means, or to initially register that way. First Assistant Secretary of State Tom Schedler assured the committee there would be plenty of safeguards to prevent unauthorized uses which were those employed by those who mailed in new registrations. With no debate the bill was approved without objection.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Thank you for your service. See you next year.
Schedler, a former state senator who never served on this committee, complimenting it on how well all the bills his department wanted to pass were treated, without controversy.

16 June 2009

Committee action, Jun. 16: HB 571

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 571 would prohibit corporal punishment in schools, being reheard. Author Rep. Barbara Norton said to the House Education Committee it was for the children, as 11,000 a year worth get paddlings. She brought witnesses in tow, including one from BESE who said it liked the bill. 80 percent of districts authorize corporal punishment at this time, and 66 of the 70 have written policies about it.

Rep. Frank Hoffman wondered about the four that didn’t have a policy and how they were counted (as not permitted), and got clarification that a policy wasn’t needed if it was decided that it would not be permitted. He asked how many allowed opting out; which all apparently could do. Rep. Clif Richardson got confirmed that school districts made information about corporal punishment available to parents, and observed responsible parents then could inform themselves and act accordingly. He also questioned the causation that was assumed between corporal punishment and incarceration, noting that other extraneous factors could explain the relationship. He noted that as practiced it was a highly regulated, last-resort technique that can get results. This sent Norton off on an emotional appeal that charged abuse could occur and said corporal punishment constitutes abuse of children. Richardson reminded if abuse was widespread, that existing laws and policies were in place to discourage and prevent it and should be enforced. If corporal punishment kept a child in school, he said that was the most important.

Rep. Hollis Downs repeated the idea that no data show causation between corporal punishment and negative societal outcomes. He said educators said their major concern was discipline. Witnesses argued various relationships between indicators associated with child abuse or violent behavior later in life chock full with emotional arguments, but none produced a systematic study was showed corporal punishment directly caused negative social outcomes. They did claim that corporal punishment did not have any evidence to show that it did work, and one even claimed it violated federal law because it had differential effects between boys and girls and it could be unconstitutional even though courts have held it as constitutional. One did say there was association between corporal punishment and things like childhood aggression and other personality aspects, but did not show causation. One supporter representing principals testified the necessity of discipline in school systems which is becoming much more difficult, and that the corporal punishment option was one of many tools to improving it, his experience showed, and that history showed few deleterious affects appeared before the now “no-touch” ethos seemed so prevalent.

Norton closed saying she loved them all, and the bill was defeated 6-8. All Republicans voted against it, and most votes for it were black Democrats.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
I was disappointed … just kidding
Rep. Pat Smith when she related a story about coming to teach in East Baton Rouge Parish and was told a paddle made by a former student could not be used for corporal punishment since the district did not permit it.

15 June 2009

Floor action, Jun. 15: HB 835, HB 889, HB 903

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 835 by Rep. Robert Johnson would levy a fee onto railroads to pay for additional safety inspections. Its author argued that the Public Service Commission had been empowered by the Legislature last year to do this, but a court challenge was slowing the progress. This bill would clarify the law to enable the PSC to begin collecting the money to hire six inspectors. He said it was a fee the industry easily could handle

Rep. Frank Hoffman brought an amendment that would require that the inspectors not be new hires. He explained that Louisiana’s current fiscal problems were as a result of too many employees, and his amendment would prevent there being new expenditures for this purpose. Johnson objected, saying the specialized nature of the job would be too burdensome and cut down on quality. But the amendment carried the day 62-20.

Rep. Thomas Carmody said he was troubled by the expansion of government involved, and asked whether the federal government should not provide more inspectors. Johnson said he didn’t think they would provide more than one. Carmody said he doubted he could support this bill, and Johnson answered that a negative vote on such an important matter if a future accident happened would leave blood on the finger by which he cast his vote. Carmody agreed it was an important vote.

Rep. Joe Harrison said the big difference between this bill and the last was this had a fee, and that the matter was now in litigation. He also pointed out that railroad crossings, where the major liability was, would not be covered as that was a federal area of regulation. So, he argued, they wouldn’t be adding much value for fees that would be passed on to consumers. The federal government had jurisdiction, so let the federal government pay for it and do it, he argued. Johnson claimed that there was jurisdiction, through the federal government.

Rep. Karen St. Germain said the bill and fee were necessary. She said it wasn’t too much to pay and it was unwise to leave policing in the hands of the companies themselves.

Rep. Wayne Waddell asked whether Johnson thought the cost would be passed down to consumers. He said that wasn’t necessarily true and that more could be saved by them doing this, in term of reduced liability. Then, Waddell, asked, why weren’t railroads doing this already if it was so cost effective? Johnson couldn’t say, but said the railroads themselves had come up with the number of six inspectors.

Johnson closed by apologizing to Carmody for his passion. He said the situation was “the fox guarding the henhouse” and too many accidents were occurring to say things were acceptable. He said the industry knew how unsafe things were and said it was hoping people wouldn’t wake up to this. A vote for the bill would prevent unsafe situations like nuclear waste being derailed in communities.

After a lockout quorum was established at 94, the amended bill failed to pass 49-45. Johnson asked for future reconsideration even before the vote was announced, probably assuming he might get votes out of the 11 absentees, and got it.

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 889 would increase taxes on tobacco. Author Rep. Karen Peterson said health care was going to pot in the state and a “comprehensive” solution was needed, with her bill. She said it would provide funds to improve outcomes and research, and tobacco in particular caused the four leading causes of death in the state. She said it was for the children, to prevent them from smoking and for treatment, and claimed tobacco use cost hundreds per household a year in taxes because it was too cheap to access. She said “conservative” states were raising tobacco taxes, so why shouldn’t Louisiana be “responsible” and follow suit? She said the money raised also would constitute economic development and bring in federal grant dollars. Also, she claimed, 71 percent of the public supported tobacco taxes. She asserted it was not about Gov. Bobby Jindal, but really about health and the economy.

Rep. Walter Leger asked whether this would be a declining revenue source. She said it wouldn’t be, saying the total take has increased over the years. He also got her to remind that an increase still would keep the state below the tax rates of other neighboring states. He also wondered why vote for it if the governor was going to veto it; she said the override was the same as passage for this tax increase, and said Jindal was a long-time tool of “big tobacco” so she wanted to tilt away anyway. She also claimed it would help inject $250 million of grant money into the health care system.

Rep. Rosalind Jones asked how such a tax could be passed on to poorer people. Peterson said even if it is a regressive tax, she argued the bill would make them behave in a healthier way. She reminded again she was for “the children.”

Speaking of behalf of the bill, Leger said the anti-tax rhetoric was a front by tobacco companies to obscure the deadliness of the product, which they could use to manipulate people into becoming addicted. That aside, it was therefore an “easy” vote.

Speaking against it, Rep. Joe Lopinto said this simply was a tax, and that people knew what they were doing when it came to smoking and paying taxes. The real question was whether this was a justifiable tax in the environment of where cuts were needed in the size of government. His constituents had made it clear they wanted smaller government, not higher taxes. Therefore, why raise revenue before cutting the size of government? If extra money was to be raised from users, why not let the people keep it instead of giving it to government? After this, Rep. John Labruzzo called the question, which was objected to and failed to pass 44-50.

Speaking for it, Rep. Cedric Richmond claimed the costs of tobacco to the health care system exceeded more than double the current tobacco tax, so non-smokers were paying for it. Even if it was threatened by a veto, he said let the governor go ahead and try to explain it. Rep. Hollis Downs said his father’s death associated with smoking made him dead set against smoking, and since he said it couldn’t be gotten rid of, it should be taxed more. Rep. Roy Burrell said if he were an example, he needed help struggling with addiction to tobacco, and that this bill could do it.

Closing, Peterson said so many spoke for it and only one against because it was a good bill. She argued a moral compass should tell one it was right and that you didn’t need lobbyists to tell you what was right and wrong. Not everybody could break addictions, and they needed help. It wasn’t a matter of self-control, she claimed, if somebody like Pres. Barack Obama couldn’t stop smoking completely.

After a lockout quorum was established at 100, the bill was defeated 45-55.

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 903 by Rep. Jeff Arnold would force popular approval of any roll forwards of property taxes, through a constitutional amendment. Governing authorities whose members were appointed could only roll forward no more than 2.5 percent any year. After a technical amendment was passed, Arnold said an adjustment in the Senate would be made dealing with fire districts, who were considerably opposed to the bill otherwise. Rep. Mert Smiley thought that was more than fair and wondered why any future amendment was needed.

The amended bill passed 74-16.

QUOTES OF THE DAY:
Any other questions?
Oh, yeah!
Speaker Jim Tucker to Peterson, during the question period.

13 June 2009

Legislative regular session through Jun. 13, 2009

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 148 passed the Senate; HB 340 with minor amendments passed the Senate; HB 902 with minor amendments passed the House; HB 903 passed House committee; SB 183 passed House committee; SB 223 with minor amendments passed House committee; SB 267 with minor amendments passed Senate committee and the Senate.

THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 591 with minor amendments passed Senate committee; HB 855 was concurred in by the House; HB 889 with minor amendments passed House committee; HB 898 with minor amendments passed the House; SB 256 with minor amendments passed House committee.

SCORECARD
Total number of bills, House: 904; total number of bills, Senate: 351.

Total number of good bills, House: 34; total number of good bills, Senate: 18.

Total number of bad bills, House: 45; total number of bad bills, Senate: 21.

Total House good bills heard in House committee: 29; total Senate good bills heard in Senate committee: 12.

Total House bad bills heard in House committee: 39; total Senate bad bills heard in Senate committee: 15.

Total House good bills passed by House committee: 11; total Senate good bills passed by Senate committee: 9.

Total House bad bills passed by House committee: 14; total Senate bad bills passed by Senate committee: 9.

Total House good bills approved by House: 6; total Senate good bills approved by Senate: 8.

Total House bad bills approved by House: 10; total Senate bad bills approved by Senate: 9.

Total House good bills heard in Senate committee: 3; total Senate good bills heard in House committee: 2.

Total House bad bills heard in Senate committee: 4; total Senate bad bills heard in House committee: 4.

Total House good bills approved by Senate committee: 3; total Senate good bills approved by House committee: 1

Total House bad bills approved by Senate committee: 3; total Senate bad bills approved by House committee: 4

Total House good bills approved by Senate: 2; total Senate good bills approved by House: 0.

Total House bad bills approved by Senate: 1; total Senate bad bills approved by House: 1.

Total House good bills going to governor: 0; total Senate good bills going to governor: 0.

Total House bad bills going to governor: 1; total Senate bad bills going to governor: 1.

Total House good bills signed by governor: 0; total Senate good bills signed by governor: 0.

Total House bad bills signed by governor: 0; total Senate bad bills signed by governor: 1.

10 June 2009

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

DID YOU KNOW?
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.

DID YOU KNOW?
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.

DID YOU KNOW?
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.

DID YOU KNOW?
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.

DID YOU KNOW?
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.

DID YOU KNOW?
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.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
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.

06 June 2009

Legislative regular session through Jun. 6, 2009

Good news – HB 38 mutated into the substitute HB 902, a better bill that would limit the ability of nonelected officials to roll forward increased property tax collections, perhaps as a response to the Senate’s roughing up SB 37 (see here). It has been added to the list of good bills, along with its constitutional amendment twin HB 903 (replacing its substituted HB 375).

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 26 passed the House; HB 60 passed Senate committee; HB 148 passed the Senate; HB 340 passed Senate committee; HB 770 was involuntarily deferred in House committee; HB 844 with minor amendments failed to pass the House; HB 897 was involuntarily deferred in House committee; HB 902 passed House committee; SB 223 with minor amendments passed the Senate;.

THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 179 passed the House; HB 243 with minor amendments failed to pass the House; HB 457 passed the House; HB 458 with minor amendments passed the House; HB 497 was involuntarily deferred in House committee; HB 538 with minor amendments passed Senate committee; HB 612 with major amendments passed Senate committee; HB 855 with minor amendments passed Senate committee and the Senate; SB 43 passed House committee; SB 199 with minor amendments passed the Senate; SB 245 with minor amendments passed the Senate; SB 256 with minor amendments passed the Senate; SB 277 passed the Senate; SB 296 passed House committee; SB 335 with minor amendments passed the Senate.

SCORECARD
Total number of bills, House: 904; total number of bills, Senate: 351.

Total number of good bills, House: 34; total number of good bills, Senate: 18.

Total number of bad bills, House: 45; total number of bad bills, Senate: 22.

Total House good bills heard in House committee: 29; total Senate good bills heard in Senate committee: 12.

Total House bad bills heard in House committee: 38; total Senate bad bills heard in Senate committee: 15.

Total House good bills passed by House committee: 11; total Senate good bills passed by Senate committee: 8.

Total House bad bills passed by House committee: 13; total Senate bad bills passed by Senate committee: 9.

Total House good bills approved by House: 6; total Senate good bills approved by Senate: 7.

Total House bad bills approved by House: 9; total Senate bad bills approved by Senate: 9.

Total House good bills heard in Senate committee: 2; total Senate good bills heard in House committee: 0.

Total House bad bills heard in Senate committee: 3; total Senate bad bills heard in House committee: 3.

Total House good bills approved by Senate committee: 2; total Senate good bills approved by House committee: 0

Total House bad bills approved by Senate committee: 2; total Senate bad bills approved by House committee: 3

Total House good bills approved by Senate: 1; total Senate good bills approved by House: 0.

Total House bad bills approved by Senate: 1; total Senate bad bills approved by House: 1.

Total House good bills going to governor: 0; total Senate good bills going to governor: 0.

Total House bad bills going to governor: 0; total Senate bad bills going to governor: 1.

Total House good bills signed by governor: 0; total Senate good bills signed by governor: 0.

Total House bad bills signed by governor: 0; total Senate bad bills signed by governor: 1.

03 June 2009

Floor action, Jun. 3: SB 37, SB 335

DID YOU KNOW?
SB 37 by Sen. Jack Donahue would allow nonelected boards a limit of 2.5 percent roll forward on millage rates without voter approval going through the governing authority that appoints to the boards. Donahue championed the bill saying that after this limit officials who only were directly responsible to the people through elections should be able to raise this. It had been amended not to apply to all governing authorities.

Sen. Yvonne Dorsey offered an amendment to exempt fire districts from it. Donahue said this violated the premise of the bill that nonelected officials should not be able unilaterally to increase the millages past 2.5 percent. Sen. A.G. Crowe supported him, saying this was an accountability issue. In response, Dorsey said this should be a local issue and questioned the accountability aspect. Crowe explained the latter had to do with voter control. Dorsey attempted to draw a comparison with high state appointees with their authority, not seeming to realize they had no appropriation power unlike these boards. The amendment passed 18-11.

Donahue then said he would return the bill to the calendar, and expressed disappointment at the vote.

DID YOU KNOW?
SB 335 would delay a tax decrease that began earlier this year for three years, for those taxpayers that can deduct for “excess” deductions. Author Sen. Lydia Jackson said it would affect only a “small” amount of money, was not a real “tax” because the deduction had not been restored, and that she planned on getting whatever revenue was raised to fund higher education. To that end, she had an amendment to create a fund that then could be used to be drawn from to do that, which was adopted without objection.

Sen. Buddy Shaw pointed out that the deferral actually would be for less than three years since the budget year already had started. He also said this legislation would be hypocritical as a kind of bait-and-switch. He also disputed that it was not a “tax” because he said it had been promised and now this was getting reneged. Sen. Robert Adley admitted perhaps he was a “hypocrite” but the taxpayer still was better off than he had been even with this deferral.

Sen. Bob Kostelka said those “talk show hosts” and anonymous “editorial writers” didn’t have the guts to make the hard decisions they were going to make like on this bill. He claimed to abhor taxes and called upon higher education to reform itself, but said “drastic” cuts to education were too much and would take a long time to overcome, even as he admitted the efforts probably would be in “vain” since both the House and governor expressed opposition to it.

Sen. Jody Amedee claimed he didn’t like it, but asserted there was no other plan so he would go for it, too. He thought it might change the minds of opponents to pass it. Sen. Mike Michot said the measure would buy time for higher education to reform without retarding past progress.

Jackson closed by relating personal stories about students going to college. Again, tying the bill’s passage to higher education funding, and said a positive vote would show support to the concept of higher education. The bill passed 29-9.

01 June 2009

Committee action, Jun. 1: HB 497, HCR 160

DID YOU KNOW
HB 497 by Rep. Nita Hutter would direct monies from the Budget Stabilization Fund to higher education. Hutter explained this area would not get shortchanged as it was now, but also offered up amendments that would alter the bill to suspend its provisions with a declared state of emergency by the governor.

Rep. Eddie Lambert argued there were other alternatives, and that with this bill all other agencies would be sacrificed. “Wouldn’t this kind of put us in a straitjacket?” he asked. Hutter argued this would protect higher education, and said every other agency pretty much was protected already. Lambert said he wasn’t sure he agreed with that assessment. The amendments then were adopted.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Fannin editorialized saying the areas of higher education and health care already got 65 per cent of the general fund and this would take away flexibility. Hutter closed by saying higher education was just a portion of that and that the Legislature would still have flexibility in that a two-thirds vote would be required to transfer the funds. She said this would be a vote for higher education.

Rep. Joe Harrison moved favorably on it, but Lambert made a substitute motion to defer the bill. He said there needed to be flexibility and this would narrow the purpose of the fund so much as to moot its point. The motion to defer succeeded 11-9.

DID YOU KNOW?
HCR 160 by Rep. Karen Peterson would allow the one-third of the Fund to be used this fiscal year, requiring a two-third vote. Then it would have to be recognized by the Revenue Estimating Committee in order to be used for budgeting purposes. Rep Brett Geymann asked what the overall fiscal impact of the bill would be, given the requirement that it be replenished with “excess” mineral funds.

Gordon Monk, head of the Legislative Fiscal Office, said this year $258 million could be taken out, but then next year excess mineral funds of $243 million would be required to be put in, so there wasn’t much to be gained over the two-year time span. Geymann said then the Fund could not be used next year. Peterson said doing it now would buy time to have plenty of time for an orderly plan to cut next year. Geymann wondered what would be the impact if waiting for next year; Monk thought at current rates there wouldn’t be a lot of difference.

Closing, Peterson said it was a potential solution to the current budgetary struggles. Fannin objected to a motion for passage, however. He said this was “one-time” money to be used in “extreme” situations. He said it would get worse before it got better, and tough choices were best made now to avoid tougher ones later. Rep. Page Cortez said was there a rush on, and Peterson said there was still time to wait and move it later. So, she decided to voluntarily defer it.