19 April 2010

Floor action, Apr. 19: HB 224, SB 492, HB 51

HB 224 by Rep. Kevin Pearson would allow for suspension of retirement benefits while a state retiree is incarcerated, but would allow benefits to go to an innocent spouse.

Rep. Jack Montoucet pointed out that people convicted of the same crime might get different sentences (incarceration vs. probation) and thus be treated differently. Pearson said he could not control judges. Montoucet also wondered about garnishment. Pearson said his approach was needed in order to allow garnishment for victims. He also noted that since the incarcerated had all expenses paid by the state, there was no need for benefits for them paid out at that time.

Rep. Jeff Arnold noted that this could suspend benefits for any reason, not just related to the job. Pearson pointed out Social Security treated benefits this way. Rep. Reed Henderson said even a few months could cause big disruptions in people’s lives, and maybe judges could use the power of conviction to selectively use the law politically.

Arnold offered an amendment that would apply only to crimes dealing with a public servant’s job. Pearson objected, saying criminal behavior was criminal behavior. Arnold said there should be some relationship between the source of the benefits (the job) and the reason for losing them. The amendment was adopted 78-14.

Rep. Barbara Norton said she wasn’t fair that the state could take benefits from somebody who worked for the state. Henderson said just because Social Security was treated this way didn’t mean Louisiana had to follow.

Pearson noted the amended bill meant the state was justifiably withholding state money for those who committed crimes as state employees in the course of their jobs. The bill failed 41-56.

SB 492 by Sen. Ben Nevers would make some ethics reporting apply to charter school board members. He said it would make them close to what school board members had to face. Sen. Ann Duplessis offered and amendment that would relax requirements originally from Tier 2.1 to 3, less that for school boards. She said that they were nonelected and uncompensated, often neighborhood members and parents, and should not need the more stringent requirements, even if the schools received public money. But when questioned that this implied school board members were less trustworthy, Nevers then returned it to the calendar.

After initially bringing it up, Rep. Simone Champagne gave notice she would bring up HB 51 which would put term limits on statewide elected officials next Tuesday after a quorum call showed only 89 of 103 members present. She said she wanted to make sure more member were present.

I assume I’d be the one going to jail, and you’d be getting probation.
Pearson, responding to Montoucet’s hypothetical question where the latter said one of them got sentenced one way and the other the other way.

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