23 May 2017

Committee action, May 23: HB 302, SB 167

HB 302 by Rep. Lance Harris would increase the monthly probation fee paid in order to fund recruitment and retention for probation officers. Harris told the Senate Judiciary B Committee that with changes coming in criminal justice that would put a greater burden of probationary services. Chairman Gary Smith wondered whether extra funds would materialize if probationers could not afford the $37 a month extra. Harris said the bill said only employed probationers would be subject to the increase.

Sen. Karen Peterson asked whether this would guarantee a pay raise. Harris said it was an option, but he would leave it up to the department. Some debate ensued about the actual amount it would generate and how that would translate into pay raises. Peterson said she hesitated to support something that could not guarantee a raise, and Sen. Greg Tarver said the amount he thought was too small to give a meaningful raise, but nonetheless wanted an amendment that would send it to raises and said he otherwise wouldn’t vote for it. Harris said he would go along with that.

Peterson said the bill ended up pitting state employees against each other, since it was dedicating funds. She said to vote against it didn’t mean those voting against state employees. Harris said this would help right now. Peterson accused Harris of bringing it for headlines and launched a jeremiad against current budgeting practices and for the minimum wage, solving alleged pay equity problems and the like.

20 May 2017

Legislative regular session through May 20, 2017

HB 176 has been removed from the list of bad bills after amendment.

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 6 was deferred involuntarily by Senate committee; HB 113 passed the House; HB 518 failed to pass the House; HB 556 with major amendment passed the House; HB 590 with major amendment passed the House; HB 601 with minor amendment passed House committee; HB 676 with major amendment passed the House; SB 67 passed the Senate; SB 111 with minor amendment passed the Senate.

THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 34 was deferred involuntarily; HB 67 with minor amendment passed House committee; HB 101 was deferred involuntarily; HB 249 with minor amendment passed House committee; HB 312 passed House committee; HB 413 with minor amendment passed House committee; HB 454 with minor amendment passed the House; HB 632 with major amendment passed House committee; HB 637 failed to pass the House; HB 667 passed House committee; SB 24 was deferred involuntarily; SB 25 passed the Senate; SB 155 passed Senate committee; SB 254 with minor amendment passed the Senate.

17 May 2017

Committee action, May 17: HB 6, HB 34

HB 6 by Rep. Paul Hollis would allow the state to exempt the state from penalties from the individual mandate for buying health insurance. He told the Senate Insurance Committee that a recent executive order allowed for states asking for this to happen, so Louisiana needed to pursue a waiver to do this. The law would dictate that the state make the application.

Senators queried about the practical effect of the bill. Sen. Blade Morrish wondered how the penalty mechanism worked, which is collected by the Internal Revenue Service only when a taxpayer did not pay the fee and had an income tax refund coming. He argued the taxpayer even could choose whether to pay it regardless of any waiver. He later noted that so little choice in coverage requirements and high deductibles forced families either to pay above their means or had to pay the penalty unless something like the waiver came into play.

Opponents argued the individual mandate prevented rates from increasing to make up for compensated care, citing recent analysis of the potential replacement for the law that had the individual mandate – although that actually largely measured the changes in age requirements and mandated coverages. They also alleged it would be unconstitutional and that current law did not allow for such a waiver – even though former Pres. Barack Obama had issued waivers without the law explicitly permitting these. Additionally, they claimed confusion would result.

13 May 2017

Legislative regular session through May 13, 2017

By substitution, HB 685 became a good bill, to have the Louisiana Deferred Compensation Plan not invest in securities whose parent companies boycott Israel. SB 144 has been removed from the list of good bills after an amendment crippling to its purpose became attached to it. Additionally, by substitute SB 36 mutated from being a bad bill. Also, HB 139 and SB 243 were amended into forms altering the aspects that made each a bad bill. Finally, HB 333 had amended out of it less salutary aspects that made it a bad bill, and thus is removed from the list.

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 68 was deferred involuntarily; HB 82 passed Senate committee; HB 113 with minor amendment passed House committee; HB 117 with major amendment passed House committee; HB 152 was deferred involuntarily; HB 257 was deferred involuntarily; HB 272 with minor amendment passed the House; HB 302 with minor amendment passed the House; HB 351 with major amendment passed the House; HB 360 with minor amendment passed House committee; HB 361 with minor amendment passed House committee; HB 518 passed House committee; HB 556 passed House committee; HB 590 passed House committee; HB 676 failed to pass the House; HB 685 passed House committee; SB 67 with minor amendment passed Senate committee and the Senate; SB 98 with minor amendment passed the Senate; SB 100 with minor amendment passed the Senate; SB 111 with minor amendment passed Senate committee; SB 243 with minor amendment passed the Senate.

THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 177 was substituted for by HB 681 and passed House committee; HB 228 was deferred involuntarily; HB 239 was deferred involuntarily; HB 258 was deferred involuntarily; HB 312 passed House committee; HB 394 was deferred involuntarily; HB 497 failed to pass the House; HB 544 with minor amendment passed the House; HB 637 passed House committee; SB 13 was deferred involuntarily; SB 71 passed House committee; SB 83 passed Senate committee; SB 254 was recalled from Senate committee.

09 May 2017

Committee action, May 9: SB 167, HB 91, HB 457

SB 167 by Sen. Regina Barrow would make companies that let out harmful air emissions pay for health screenings of individuals in the area affected. She brought along Lt. Gen. (ret.) Russell Honore, who heads an environmentalist group. He told the Senate Environmental Quality Committee that people who live near concerns that use potentially harmful chemicals should have peace of mind provided with checkups by the offenders. State agencies would order this kind of relief for people living within a mile of the release.

Agency representatives detailed when violations could occur that the bill would cover, which could take several months to determine and who bore responsibility. Sen. Eddie Lambert, after hearing this, thought the bill would force annual testing for everybody. Honore said it could come from events or be continuous, and 350 entities would qualify.

Sen. Conrad Appel asked what was a “health screening” was. He was told this could be construed as multiple tests. Further, as the language also doesn’t identify what to look for, this he was told magnifies the testing demand. He also wondered how testing could separate out the impact of an exposure to long-term environmental factors in a person’s life, which would make it he heard difficult to detect the exposure’s impact. Finally, he asked how it would happen. Barrow said she hoped the offenders would do it.

06 May 2017

Legislative regular sesison through May 6, 2017

HB 187 has been removed from the list of good bills, as it was amended to extend the deadline to pay off tax credit recipients after notification that credits had been exhausted. HB 245 also has been removed from that list as it had amended out a requirement focusing on personal responsibility.

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 6 passed the House; HB 272 passed House committee; HB 302 with minor amendment passed House committee; HB 676 passed House committee; SB 98 with minor amendment passed Senate committee; SB 100 with major amendment passed Senate committee; SB 243 with minor amendment passed Senate committee.

THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 333 passed House committee; SB 2 passed Senate committee; SB 139 with minor amendment passed Senate committee; SB 235 was substituted for by SB 254.

01 May 2017

Committee action, May 1: HB 187, HB 527

HB 187 would erase even earlier the solar energy tax credit but in return make sure that all tax credits paid out. Rep. Greg Cromer told the House Ways and Means Committee that the cap on the program meant some people that had entered the program prior to its previous attenuation would not gain access to the credit. He and others also thought it fair to make sure these people got access to the credit. He also said that it would have ended the leasing aspect of the program six months early, but then said he didn’t want to do that and asked for an amendment to be offered to do it. That was done. More than one member claimed part of the problem came from unscrupulous vendors selling the credit without full information. He said it would not expand the program in any way.

Reps. Major Thibault and Ted James expressed concern that the budget would take a $15.7 million hit, as well as no one seemed entirely sure what the final figure might be. Another amendment would cut off the date for purchase at the end of 2015, making that figure hard. Cromer argued that the amendment would not cover people suckered by unscrupulous dealers, and opposed it. Rep. Dodie Horton thought the amendment needed not to make the credit open-ended through the date in the bill, the end of fiscal year 2017, and assessment with which Secretary of Revenue Kimberly Robinson agreed.

But as Chairman Neil Abramson was off testifying elsewhere and Cromer had said he had told him he would not offer that amendment currently, Vice Chairman Jim Morris said he would not have the amendment offered. Thibault said he would offer a similar amendment if it made it to the floor, arguing that buyers needed to assume some responsibility. James said to extend the date would encourage expansion of the cost as people jumped in. Horton said the state need not facilitate unscrupulous behavior.

29 April 2017

Legislative regular session through Apr. 29, 2017

Bill filing has ended, so for now on the only additions will come from bills that, through amendments, have mutated into something positive or negative. Removals can come from the same cause. Some bills may change from one number to another through substitution.

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 6 passed House committee; HB 82 passed the House; HB 135 was substituted by HB 676; HB 245 passed House committee; HB 351 passed House committee; HB 676 passed House committee; SB 11 with minor amendment passed Senate committee.

THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 497 with minor amendment passed House committee; HB 544 with minor amendment passed House committee; SB 71 passed Senate committee and the Senate; SB 142 passed Senate committee.

26 April 2017

Committee action, Apr. 26: HB 245, HB 6

HB 245 by Rep. Frank Hoffman would have home- and community-based providers to not pay or to recoup background check fees from applicants. Hoffman told the House and Welfare Committee that the state believes providers already can recoup fees, but better to exempt them and allow the opportunity to collect fees, if not at the time after employment of the applicant. About half of all applicants fail such checks, so he thought it appropriate to exempt fees to prevent such a burden placed upon agencies that deal with waiver programs.

Without objection, the bill moved favorably.

HB 6 by Rep. Paul Hollis would direct the state to adopt policies to relieve burdensome financial regulatory portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to businesses and individuals. He told the House Insurance Committee of the bill’s consistency with an executive order issued by Pres. Donald Trump, and it likely would mean getting rid of the individual mandate.

Rep. Vincent Pierre asked whether this could be done legally. Chairman Kirk Talbot said anything could be done legally. Hollis said any constitutional challenge could be defended.

Opponents declared that to implement this law would have fewer people insured, without the penalty, and alleged health outcomes would worsen, and said it was too risky constitutionally. It also might create confusion, they argued.

Talbot pointed out the penalty represented a new form of taxation, mandating payment simply for being alive, rather than government imposing a regulation on the action of somebody. He also noted that the Constitution vested powers of this sort in the states. Rep. Mark Abraham argued that the system was broken, and change had to occur for things to improve regardless of problems that could happen as a result of getting rid of penalties. Rep. Greg Cromer said the system already caused confusion and was unstable, so the bill would not make matters worse.

Rep. Edmond Jordan said the impact would not be known given uncertainty of the policy direction nationally. Hollis noted the executive order gave some legitimacy to this move, although Edmond claimed the taxing power of Congress would conflict with that – even though former Pres, Barack Obama had used executive authority not to implement portions of the law in the past, just as Hollis’ bill would permit.

Jordan objected to favorable passage, then the bill was moved favorably by a 9-4 vote, with all Republicans present voting in favor joined by a couple of Democrats while all opposition came from Democrats.

23 April 2017

Legislative regular session through Apr. 22, 2017

Bill filing came to an end this week, with these additions to the list of the good and bad (note: bills that did not have an obvious positive or negative affect on tax burdens are not included, but as these become known may be added to the list):

THE GOOD: HB 652 by Rep. Chris Broadwater would simplify sales taxation with lower rates; SB 243 by Sen. Barrow Peacock would rein the alternative fuel conversion tax credit.

THE BAD: HB 628 by Rep. Sam Jones would institute a gross receipts tax; HB 630 by Rep. Ted James would get rid of deductibility of federal tax burden on state income taxes; HB 632 by Rep. Steve Carter would increase gasoline taxes (similar bill: HB 659); HB 637 by Rep. Lance Harris would permit greater subsidization of insurance for high-risk properties; HB 638 by Jones would continue the extra cent on sales tax another five years; HB 647 by Rep. Kenny Havard would institute an oil processing tax; HB 650 by Broadwater would increase taxes on those individuals who pay the most; HB 654 by Rep. Gene Reynolds would increase insurance rates; HB 655 by Reynolds would broaden sales tax reduction without corresponding rate reduction; HB 656 by Rep. Rob Shadoin would increase property taxes to fund the Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars; HB 667 by Rep. Cedric Glover creates an unneeded taxing authority over Shreveport; HB 672 by Rep. Joe Stagni would impose a fee discriminatorily on rideshare companies; SB 249 by Sen. Norby Chabert would fragment allocations going to coastal restoration and protection.

17 April 2017

Committee action, Apr. 17: SB 18, SB 25, SB 33

SB 18 by Sen. Barrow Peacock would eliminate the alternative fuel conversion credit for vehicles. He told the Senate Revenue Committee that the money given away, 36 percent currently but due to go to 50 percent next year, the most generous in the country, would cost nearly $17 million over five years. He pointed out that even if it provided an incentive for cleaner air, this was quite costly to the state and that many conversions would occur anyway. In response to questions, he noted that in tight budgetary times the costs of this exceeded benefits.

A few senators insisted that the costs were worth it, and Sen. Eddie Lambert said he would like to retain some form of this, if perhaps at a lower level. After a promise to bring up the bill again soon in order to confer with other senators on the item, Peacock somewhat hesitantly agreed to defer.


15 April 2017

Legislative regular session through Apr. 15, 2017

Bill filing continues for a short period, and adds to the list of the good, bad, and ugly bills of the 2017 Regular session. Otherwise, as is typical, few bills are heard and fewer still move in the first week of these sessions.

THE GOOD: HB 622 by Rep. Stephanie Hilferty would remove excessing revenue-raising authority from the Ernest N. Morial-New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority.


09 April 2017

The Good, Bad, and Ugly -- 2017 Regular Session

The Louisiana Legislature Log returns for the 2017 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, beginning with exposition of the good, and, and ugly bills prefiled for this year. Keep in mind that bills regarding specific budgeting are not included. Note also that a number of revenue bills tied into others which, if separate, would raise or lower total taxes but tied in may have other effects. An opinion was rendered only on those that, either designed to stand alone or in conjunction with others, that either increased or decreased taxes unambiguously. As the session proceeds, some others may be added as amendments make relationships clearer, or be removed.

THE GOOD: HB 6 by Rep. Paul Hollis would initiate the process to provide financial relief for those not wishing to buy health insurance; HB 68 by Rep. Barry Ivey would allow unlicensed law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms; HB 80 by Rep. Stephanie Hilferty would phase out the corporate franchise tax (similar bills: HB 361, HB 433); HB 82 by Rep. Sherman Mack would encourage more efficient use of indigent defense funds; HB 113 by Rep. Chris Broadwater would maintain higher education governing boards’ ability to set fees; HB 117 by Rep. Franklin Foil would raise grade point average standards for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (similar bill: HB 194); HB 135 by Valarie Hodges would prohibit sanctuary policies; HB 143 by Rep. Dee Richard would eliminate Tulane University scholarships given away by state legislators; HB 152 by Rep. Tony Bacala would create more efficient and better service provision for people with disabilities; HB 187 by Rep. Greg Cromer would end the solar energy tax credit early (similar bills: HB 301, HB 331); HB 245 by Rep. Frank Hoffman would improve the quality of waiver services care; HB 256 by Rep. Rick Edmonds would amend the Constitution to prohibit felons for 15 years without a pardon for five and other violent criminals for five years from running for elective office or appointment (similar bill: HB 351); HB 257 by Hollis would amend the Constitution to prohibit traffic camera enforcement; HB 272 by Hollis would create a more realistic recall procedure; HB 275 by Rep. Katrina Jackson would repeal a cent of sales tax a year early; HB 294 by Bacala would ensure more taxes raised on vehicles would go to roads projects; HB 302 by Rep. Lance Harris would encourage greater personal responsibility by those on probation; HB 330 by Rep. Cameron Henry would amend the Constitution to distribute Minimum Foundation Program funds more equitably; HB 337 by Rep. Julie Stokes would provide a tax credit for improvements made to the residences of individuals with certain disabilities; HB 355 by Ivey would accomplish comprehensive tax reform with a flat rate and elimination of many exceptions (similar bills: HB 360, HB 370, HB 371); HB 385 by Broadwater would repeal corporate income and franchise taxes and eliminate related tax credits; HB 441 by Rep. Robbie Carter would amend the Constitution to eliminate revenue sharing over a decade (similar bill: HB 457); HB 442 by Rep. Bob Hensgens would amend the Constitution to cap appropriations annually with a growth factor with excess funds eventually available to taxpayers (similar bill: HB 477); HB 449 by Rep. Neil Abramson would amend the Constitution not to allow tax exemption to nonprofits’ property not in use; HB 518 by Edmonds would try to make reviews of efficacy of funds and dedications (similar bill: HB 590); HB 543 by Rep. Beryl Amedee would eliminate the state as teacher union dues collector; HB 556 by Rep. Kevin Pearson would discourage fraudulent claims of disability by school personnel; HB 564 by Rep. Jay Morris reduces corporate income taxes; HB 565 by Jay Morris would increase ballot security; HB 588 by Jay Morris would divert proceeds from less useful dedicated funds into the general fund; HB 601 by Stokes would create uniformity in sales tax administration; SB 11 by Sen. Barrow Peacock would incorporate the Louisiana School Employees' Retirement System into the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana; SB 40 by Sen. Jay Luneau ends the Motion Picture Investors Tax Credit (similar bill: SB 78); SB 51 by Peacock would give a tax credit on franchise taxes paid in other states; SB 62 by Sen. Bret Allain would amend the Constitution to phase out the inventory tax over ten years; SB 67 by Sen. Jim Fannin would encourage audit compliance; SB 98 by Sen. Jack Donahue would improve budgetary decision-making (similar bill: SB 100); SB 111 by Sen. Beth Mizell would increase protections against criminal sexual exploitation; SB 130 by Allain would amend the Constitution to phase out the inventory tax and reduce the industrial property tax exemption related to school funding; SB 136 by Sen. Rick Ward would make some less-useful tax credits nonrefundable (similar bill: SB 161); SB 144 by Sen. Ronnie Johns would help combat human trafficking; SB 186 by Ward would flatten rates and remove exemptions for individual income taxation; SB 188 by Sen. Sharon Hewitt would introduce work requirements or equivalents for able-bodied working-age adults receiving Medicaid; SB 198 by Mizell would have the state vet relocation of monuments of historical importance; SB 226 by Hewitt discards low-priority dedications and transfers their funds balances to the general fund (similar bill: HB 458).

THE BAD: HB 15 by Rep. Ted James would impair the rights of individuals to form a municipality by allowing nonresidents to veto their desires; HB 34 by Rep. Steve Pugh would consolidate higher education governance boards, but in a half-baked and incomplete way; HB 36 by Rep. Sam Jones would encourage early retirements from jobs covered by state pensions to seek elected office; HB 54 by Robbie Carter would induce a tax increase on hydrocarbons that would reduce jobs and be passed along to consumers (similar bills: HB 55, HB 60, HB 169); HB 67 by Rep. Barbara Norton would create an unenforceable ban targeting only one type of firearm; HB 91 by Foil would create too much inflexibility in funding TOPS; HB 101 by Rep. Terry Landry would increase violent crime by removing capital punishment as a deterrent (similar bill: SB 142); HB 103 by Rep. Walt Leger would discourage work productivity by increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (similar bill: HB 175); HB 112 by Rep. Joseph Bouie would introduce needless bureaucracy onto government contractors over a nonexistent equal pay issue (similar bills: SB 2; HB 384); HB 118 by Hoffman would raise tobacco taxes but not dedicate these to health care spending (similar bill: HB 271); HB 139 by Rep. Jack McFarland would restrict unduly executive branch discretion; HB 157 by Rep. Randal Gaines would encourage politicized enforcement of public records laws; HB 163 by Rep. Malinda White would raise needlessly individual income taxes (similar bills: HB 197, HB 254, HB 258, HB 312, HB 347, HB 349, HB 350, HB 353, HB 462); HB 170 by Robbie Carter would remove the horizontal drilling tax exemption; HB 174 by Jackson would continue penalizing Louisianans for income earned in other states (similar bill: SB 33); HB 176 by Rep. Rodney Lyons would increase the cap of state money going to Councils on Aging; HB 177 by Rep. Helena Moreno would decrease crime deterrence; HB 181 by Robbie Carter would add another unproductive carve-out for property taxation; HB 202 by Rep. Mark Abraham would discourage school choice (similar bill: HB 434; HB 546); HB 228 by Rep. Pat Smith would complicate needlessly the reapportionment process; HB 229 by Smith would decrease deterrence of crime (similar bill: HB 235); HB 239 by Bouie would create busywork for charter schools that does not enhance accountability; HB 247 by Jackson would increase permanently and needlessly corporate income taxes (similar bills: HB 274, SB 79); HB 249 by Rep. Tanner Magee would decrease use of monetary inducements to deter crime; HB 255 by Rep. Gary Carter would raid unwisely the Budget Stabilization Fund; HB 282 by Norton would create needless bureaucracy and disincentives for business; HB 333 by Rep. Patrick Jefferson would induce too much hardship on tax filing individuals and too much bureaucracy to compensate; HB 406 by Rep. Marcus Hunter would increase costs needlessly by adding two Supreme Court districts; HB 413 by Leger would provide too little flexibility in funding indigent defense; HB 429 by Rep. Steve Pylant would pay work-release inmates more than minimum wage; HB 443 by Stokes would decrease legislative budgetary flexibility with an inspector general dedication; HB 453 by Abramson would increase needlessly costs of notaries public; HB 454 by Abramson would keep an unneeded tax exception; HB 484 by James would continue the extra one cent on sales taxation; HB 497 by Norton would prohibit corporal punishment in schools; HB 544 by Rep. Mike Danahay does not guarantee adequate information solicited in voter registration forms; HB 553 by Jones would increase needless fuel taxes (similar bill: HB 561, HB 578, HB 600); HB 563 by Jones would institute a gross receipts tax on corporations; HB 570 by Richard would create too much inflexibility in governance by mandating contract reductions; HB 585 by Jay Morris would create an unneeded dedication for higher education; SB 13 by Sen. Blade Morrish would restrict some lower-income households from exercising school choice for kindergartners; SB 24 by Sen. JP Morrell would carve another unnecessary exemption into state sales taxation (similar bill: SB 27); SB 25 by Morrell would discourage school choice options (similar bill: SB 95); SB 71 by Donahue would discourage TOPS reform away from entitlement status (similar bills: HB 390, SB 157); SB 73 by Sen. John Milkovich would dilute educational standards and accountability (similar bills: HB 532, HB 536; HB 572); SB 83 by Sen. Regina Barrow foists an unneeded hotel occupancy tax hike on much of East Baton Rouge Parish; SB 106 by Sen. Wesley Bishop would distract higher education with social service duties; SB 110 by Luneau would create unenforceable standards regarding TOPS; SB 118 by Sen. Yvonne Colomb would create incentives to occupy flood-prone housing; SB 139 by Sen. Danny Martiny would weaken too much crime deterrence; SB 153 by Sen. Troy Carter would increase the minimum wage and unemployment; SB 155 by Troy Carter would regulate needlessly business personnel practices; SB 166 by Morrell ends some more useful tax exemptions (similar bill: SB 206); SB 167 by Barrow forces unnecessary costs upon air quality standard violators (similar bill: HB 394); SB 235 by Morrell keeps too inflated the Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit.

THE UGLY: HB 12 by Mack would award generous pay to part-time planning commission members in Livingston Parish – why pay for what is clearly meant as a voluntary position in this one place; HB 52 by Rep. Patrick Connick would create another special dedication when too many exist already; HB 142 by Pugh would create a one-shot special election day for constitutional amendments – what’s wrong with the usual election day; HB 207 by Rep. Gary Carter would create a dual officeholding exception for health care providers on faculty or staff of a public higher education institution – why.