28 April 2010

Committee action, Apr. 28: SB 348, SB 334, HB 959

DID YOU KNOW?

SB 348 by Sen. Rob Marionneaux would ban smoking in bars and casinos. He told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this would protect workers in these environments from the deleterious effects of second-hand smoking. He said if other places can do it, so can Louisiana. He also read statements from casino operators in Louisiana from other states supporting those kinds of laws.


Opponents pointed out they predicted a decline of business that would have an adverse impact on government revenues. Also, the decision whether to allow smoking should be left in the hands of the business, since their customers can choose whether to patronize smoking establishments. Sen. Karen Peterson wondered whether any offset in revenues would be matched by reduction in expenses for health care. She said a tobacco tax could compensate. Sen. Joe McPherson said he actually was liking it because it might cut down on gambling. He said money that could have been spent on gambling them might be spent on another productive activity that the state could gain revenue from. Sen. Sherri Cheek said many employees in these environments did not have employer-sponsored insurance so the state would have to pick up health costs.


Marionneaux said money concerns should not get in the way of health concerns. He said if something like prostitution can be regulated, so should smoking. He also questioned whether there would be a significant economic impact for the worse. Without opposition the bill was passed.


DID YOU KNOW?

HB 334 by Marionneaux would do what the previous bill did except allow smoking in bars where food was not served at all. He immediately offered an amendment to make the cutoff 10 percent, called this a way of getting rid of a “loophole” that allowed what really were restaurants to allow smoking ,and called the bill as a whole a “fallback.” The amendment was adopted unanimously.


Some of the same opponents spoke. The said this would create an unlevel playing field among establishments and complicate licensing requirements. Marionneaux said this bill was needed despite the other because of the uncertainties of the legislative process, and would close the loophole. The bill was passed without objection.


DID YOU KNOW?

HB 959 by Rep. Walker Hines presented his bill to the House Health and Welfare Committee but without the moratorium on the Resource Allocation Model, amending it only to require studies and reports to make sure that use of the model is being used in a way that supports more efficient use of monies. Originally, the bill would have halted use of this policy by which decisions were made to apportion home-based care for the elderly and disabled because it was not being applied to all settings, such as nursing homes. He didn’t know the cost because no fiscal note was provided, so he assumed it was negligible. He pointed out that unused beds in nursing homes numbered about 9,000 out of 34,000, or $23 million the state paid for these that could have gone to waivers.


Chairwoman Rep. Kay Katz wondered if the information legally could be collected. Hines said yes. Witnesses in state government argued that for federal law it would work but was not as sure concerning state law since it was more individualized. They also said it seemed possible to collect this data. Rep. Neil Abramson said information was good and there should be no reason to further disseminate it, especially since most already was being collected. Rep. Bernard LeBas wondered if this wouldn’t create an extra layer of bureaucracy, but Hines argued that it really would not. LeBas said maybe some could be incorporated into another bill.


Rep. Rickey Nowlin said he couldn’t support the bill but thought it should be incorporated into his similar bill (HB 1185) due on the House floor tomorrow. Hines accepted the offer. He also reiterated that more information was better for all providers concerned and taxpayers.


Supporters argued that the matter would not get the attention it deserved unless this bill passed and in the form of a statute, not a resolution. Afterwards, Hines said in the interests of realism in getting the intent of his bill to move forward he would voluntarily defer and work with Nowlin to include his language in that bill. The committee indulged him.

24 April 2010

Legislative regular session through Apr. 24, 2010

Bill filing finished this week, so the only additions from here on out will be for bills that are mutated through major amendments or for substitutes.


THE GOOD: HB 1337 by Rep. Joel Robideaux would simplify and make more actuarially sound the state’s retirement systems; HB 1370 by Rep. Fred Mills would increase the chances of closing down unsafe abortionists.


THE BAD: HB 1332 by Rep. Regina Barrow would increase the costs of state government by mandating recycling; HB 1402 by Rep. Roy Burrell would needlessly establish a quota system for state contracting; SB 762 by Sen. Sharon Weston Broome would needlessly duplicate housing laws and unnecessarily discourage residential development.


THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD:

HB 224 with major amendments failed to pass the House; HB 248 with minor amendments passed House committees; HB 302 with minor amendments passed House committee; HB 450 was substituted for with HB 1407; HB 617 with a major amendments passed House committee; HB 1208 was substituted for with HB 1408; HB 1247 with minor amendments passed House; HB 1407 passed House committee; HB 1408 passed House committee; SB 185 passed Senate committee.


THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 251 with major amendments passed House committee.


SCORECARD:

Total number of bills, House: 1459; total number of bills, Senate: 790.


Total number of good bills, House: 66; total number of good bills, Senate: 33.


Total number of bad bills, House: 31; total number of bad bills, Senate: 28.


Total House good bills heard in House committee: 29; total Senate good bills heard in Senate committee: 3.


Total House bad bills heard in House committee: 7; total Senate bad bills heard in Senate committee: 4.


Total House good bills passed by House committee:13; total Senate good bills passed by Senate committee: 0.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Total House bad bills approved by Senate committee: 0; total Senate bad bills approved by House committee: 0.


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


Total House bad bills approved by Senate: 0; total Senate bad bills approved by House: 0.


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: 0.


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: 0.

19 April 2010

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

DID YOU KNOW?

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.


DID YOU KNOW?

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.


DID YOU KNOW?

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.


QUOTE OF THE DAY

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.

17 April 2010

Legislative regular session through Apr. 17, 2010

Bill filing continues:


THE BAD: HB 1280 by Rep. Rosalind Jones would allow unelected bodies to levy a tax on cigarettes; HB 1284 by Rep. Girod Jackson would enforce soft quotas on any contract received from the federal government by state and local governments; SB 694 by Sen. Butch Gautreaux would force teachers employed by charter schools into the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana; SB 695 by Sen. Lydia Jackson would water down educational accountability standards.


THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 51 passed House committee; HB 59 with minor amendments failed to pass House; HB 228 passed House committee; HB 247 with minor amendments passed House committee; HB 410 passed the House; HB 718 was substituted with HB 1292; HB 765 was involuntarily deferred; HB 1212 with minor amendments was involuntarily deferred; HB 1247 with minor amendments passed House committee; HB 1292 passed House committee.


THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 384 with minor amendments failed to pass the House; HB 732 was involuntarily deferred by House committee; SB 490 passed Senate committee and Senate; SB 492 passed Senate committee.


SCORECARD:

Total number of bills, House: 1299; total number of bills, Senate: 702.


Total number of good bills, House: 64; total number of good bills, Senate: 33.


Total number of bad bills, House: 29; total number of bad bills, Senate: 27.


Total House good bills heard in House committee: 22; total Senate good bills heard in Senate committee: 1.


Total House bad bills heard in House committee: 5; total Senate bad bills heard in Senate committee: 4.


Total House good bills passed by House committee: 8; total Senate good bills passed by Senate committee: 0.


Total House bad bills passed by House committee: 2; total Senate bad bills passed by Senate committee: 2.


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


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


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


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


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


Total House bad bills approved by Senate committee: 0; total Senate bad bills approved by House committee: 0.


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


Total House bad bills approved by Senate: 0; total Senate bad bills approved by House: 0.


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: 0.


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: 0.

14 April 2010

Committee action, Apr. 14: HB 650, HB 1212


DID YOU KNOW?
HB 650 by Rep. John Bel Edwards would compel statewide elected officials to resign from office if they officially filed for qualification to run for another office in or out of state, or made a “public announcement” to more than 500 people to that effect. Edwards told the House and Governmental Affairs Committee that campaigning for something else distracted from their duties and underlings would end up really running things, not those elected by the people.

One of the underlings, former state senator and current First Assistant Secretary of State Tom Schedler, said he considered the bill discriminatory since it applied only to a few positions and argued by Edwards’ logic it should be applied to all positions. He also said from his office’s perspective, it would be difficult to enforce the announcement provision.

Edwards said Schedler only reinforced the argument when he admitted campaigning took a lot of time. On a near party-line vote with Democrats in favor, it was defeated.

10 April 2010

Legislative regular session through Apr. 10, 2010

Bill filing continues, and one found its way onto the list:


THE BAD

SB 690 by Sen. Robert Adley would force parties to accept no-party registrants into their closed primaries (at the federal level), which not only detracts from parties’ abilities to control nomination of their candidates, but also probably is unconstitutional.


THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD

HB 59 passed House committee; HB 224 with minor amendments passed House committee; HB 410 with minor amendments passed House committee; HB 1075 passed House committee.


THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD

HB 292 with minor amendments passed House committee; HB 344 with minor amendments passed House committee; HB 367 was withdrawn; HB 379 was withdrawn.


SCORECARD:

Total number of bills, House: 1260; total number of bills, Senate: 692.


Total number of good bills, House: 64; total number of good bills, Senate: 33.


Total number of bad bills, House: 27; total number of bad bills, Senate: 25.


Total House good bills heard in House committee: 12; total Senate good bills heard in Senate committee: 0.


Total House bad bills heard in House committee: 4; total Senate bad bills heard in Senate committee: 2.


Total House good bills passed by House committee: 3; total Senate good bills passed by Senate committee: 0.


Total House bad bills passed by House committee: 1; total Senate bad bills passed by Senate committee: 0.


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


Total House bad bills approved by House: 0; total Senate bad bills approved by Senate: 0.


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


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


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

Total House bad bills approved by Senate committee: 0; total Senate bad bills approved by House committee: 0.


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


Total House bad bills approved by Senate: 0; total Senate bad bills approved by House: 0.


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: 0.


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: 0.

07 April 2010

Committee action, Apr. 7: HB 51, HB 410, HB 101, HB 292, HB 1157

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 51 would impose term limits on all statewide elected officials. Rep. Simone Champagne said it would start with the next election cycle.

Rep. Mike Danahay said the attorney general might have undue hardship with this because he might have to wait 12 years to reestablish a law practice. Rep. Rosalind Jones wanted to know whether recently whether statewide officials had served in more than three terms; Champagne said she didn’t know. Jones said she didn’t think this was a long-standing issue (meaning she didn’t know about Bob Odom or Jerry Fowler) since nobody had been in office for 30 years and said she understood the current governor was concerned with being able to implement his agenda.

Jones said there were elections, and made an impenetrable, if not completely obtuse, argument having something to do with policy importance and wanting to know what these officers did. Champagne said regardless of functions, the people should have the right to decide on this restriction. Champagne confirmed Rep. Mert Smiley’s thought that the amendment would not create a lifetime term limit.

Chairman Rick Gallot objected to passage and it was reported favorably 14-3, with only black Democrats Gallot, Jones, and Rep. Jared Brossett voting against.

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 410 by Rep. Steve Carter now brought the issue of a three-term limit to school boards with technical amendments made.

Rep Dee Richard said he would support this because the bill created a series of local options to impose this, but Danahay said he liked the concept although he didn’t like the idea as in the bill as it came as a kind of mandate and so unlike Richard would oppose. Carter thought the merit of the bill would be to encourage people to run discouraged by long-standing incumbents, to bring fresh ideas.

Gallot offered an amendment to take out school districts in his legislative district, but Smiley objected and thought it should be offered to all voters in all districts. State Reps. Brett Geymann, Tony Ligi, Nick Lorusso, Danahay and Jones joined Gallot in voting for the amendment that failed 6-11.

Geymann wondered whether this was needed, since in Jefferson limits had been imposed recently (actually, by the Legislature itself). Carter argued this was the only recent instance and therefore it might be held back by districts (only one, Lafayette, had imposed limits on itself). Geymann also wondered why not extend it to other governing authorities that Carter said the nature of education policy was such that refreshing of ideas was particularly crucial. Joining Carter was Rep. Joe Harrison who was even more critical of entrenched school boards, citing his own experiences, saying too many people got locked into processes and were resistant to needed change.

Jones asked why should be people who understood after 12 years the complexity of policy be booted off? Harrison pointed out the state was taking over too many schools to show that long-time school board members were doing a good job, and since it was a state responsibility paid for by state taxpayers, all citizens everywhere in the state should have the chance to vote on this. Jones declared all that “minutiae” and said school board members didn’t teach, teachers did.

Geymann asked whether high-ranking states had terms; Carter said he thought so. Undaunted, he then asked how the term-limited parishes in Louisiana were doing which was fair-to-worse. Carter stressed that people should have the choice. State Rep. Cameron Henry suspected that districts doing better might even vote this down.

Jones then introduced an amendment that replicated what was in Lafayette’s charter that would leave the local option amendment up to local governments, negating the mandatory election. Henry pointed out this really didn’t change anything and said the same purpose would be served by having the people vote on term limits. The amendment was defeated.

Basically mirroring the vote on Gallot's amendment, the bill then passed.

DID YOU KNOW?
Now, with Rep. Rickey Hardy's HB 101, the idea was for a three-term limit for dsitrict judges, district attorneys, sheriffs, also starting in 2012 and only for consecutive terms. Ligi echoed Danahay's earlier concern with giving up law practices by judges for extended periods, especially with their longer terms. Rep. Wayne Waddell wondered whether term limits might shorten total time too much so that they would be discouraged because it would not be enough time for retirement to kick in.

A number of people spoke in opposition, stressing that extending term limits would be problematic when applied to the judicial side of things. They argued that judicial jobs were full-time and career jobs and many who are employed by them are not civil servants but appointees and to a degree also are making career decisions. They said it would affect decision-making such as who to prosecute in what they argued was a debilitating way because they will do it "with an eye towards their next job."

Smiley said he wanted to offer amendments but had come with them too late, so he hoped he would have a shot at them later in the process if the bill survived. He promised great things where careers would be possible with retirement, but only if the bill went forward could this happen.

Ligi offered an amendment to remove judges. There was no objection to its adoption.

In closing, Hardy argued that after service as a DA plenty of job opportunities would be available. He saw no reason that one could not sit out and come back. Ligi asked for reporting, to which Smith objected. Only Henry, Ligi, Lorusso and Richard voted to pass.

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 292 by Rep. Hunter Greene would essentially recreate a blanket primary for Congressional elections. HB 1157 would by Henry would create nomination by plurality. Gallot preferred to handle one, then defer momentarily to deal with the other, because they could conflict.

Jones pointed out that this would recreate the old problem of having elections in December after all other states. Greene then incorrectly asserted 20 other states followed this system; in fact, those are genuine open primary states which means voters of any party may participate in any one party's primary. He also said there would be money saved and less confusion among voters.

After adopting some technical amendments, Sec. of State Jay Dardenne testified this system really was not closed, but "semi-closed" because the parties decide how to deal with unaffiliated voters and this was a source of confusion. HB 292 would solve for this but it could cost seniority in Congress. Confusion could be fixed by not allowing parties to decide how to deal with unaffiliated voters, but wondered whether that might be judicially suspect. The cost for an extra election that might be eliminated would be $6 million.

Smiley noted that no communication from Members of Congress and no requests for the parties to speak to him seemed to indicate nobody cared and so he would be in favor of it.

Rep. Patrick Connick focused on Greene's erroneous information and asked how other states with "open" primaries were not having general elections in December. Greene couldn't really answer that, naturally, and neither could Dardenne.

Henry then talked about his bill, saying how his also would eliminate an election by making party nominations won by plurality which would maintain closed primaries. He noted this would solve for the December election problem and would solve most of the confusion attendant to the extra date. He also said that one House member, one Senator, and one state party head had said they support his bill. He also argued that confusion would die down as time passed and a change back would reintroduce confusion.

Rep. Jane Smith said the December election problem wasn't so bad since it would apply only to newcomers, and said she preferred Greene's bill. Amendments to satisfy legal requirements and to clarify were adopted to Henry's bill.

Greene's bill was chosen to go first by Gallot, who said only one could be passed without there being conflicting wills. But Smiley pointed out that if one failed on the floor there were no more options left. Gallot hinted that Speaker Jim Tucker had told him only one could go out: "Good enough for me!" Smiley said.

HB 292 was passed without objection, and thus Henry deferred.

QUOTES OF THE DAY:
Politicians, like diapers, should be changed frequently
Lorusso’s aphorism about Champagne’s bill.

I have the most important person supporting this bill -- God. I don't know about the rest of you.
Hardy, when asked who he knew supported his bill.

03 April 2010

Legislative regular session through Apr. 3, 2010

Filing of bills has commenced again, which provides the week’s only action. None of the bills designated to date as good or bad were acted upon in any meaningful way in this abbreviated week.


Nonetheless, this week begins the weekly update of bill progress. I’m making a change in the way I count bills; now all bills considered as similar or companion bills to another will be counted separately.


THE GOOD:

HB 1247 by Rep. Frank Hoffman would prohibit health insurers from including elective abortion in any health care coverage.


THE UGLY:

HB 1235 by Rep. Austin Badon would allow cell phones to be used only in a hands-free configuration or for emergencies; the problem is not really with the idea but with impossible enforcement of a primary offense.


SCORECARD:

Total number of bills, House: 1247; total number of bills, Senate: 686.


Total number of good bills, House: 64; total number of good bills, Senate: 33.


Total number of bad bills, House: 29; total number of bad bills, Senate: 24.


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


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


Total House good bills passed by House committee: 0; total Senate good bills passed by Senate committee: 0.


Total House bad bills passed by House committee: 0; total Senate bad bills passed by Senate committee: 0.


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


Total House bad bills approved by House: 0; total Senate bad bills approved by Senate: 0.


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


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


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

Total House bad bills approved by Senate committee: 0; total Senate bad bills approved by House committee: 0.


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


Total House bad bills approved by Senate: 0; total Senate bad bills approved by House: 0.


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: 0.


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: 0.