20 March 2018

Committee action, Mar. 20: SB 262, SB 417

SB 262 by Sen. Ryan Gatti would expand gubernatorial powers during declared emergencies and extend the time period for which the declarations would last. Governor’s Office General Counsel Matthew Block explained the two parts of the bill to Senate Judiciary Committee B, one of which would allow for streamlining certain legal motions. The other would lengthen a declaration’s time from 30 to 90 days, with Block saying most disaster periods lasted far longer than either limit, meaning frequent renewals.

Originally, opponents of the bill didn’t wish to speak, but after Sen. Karen Peterson expressed surprise that opposition existed, one did, saying that longer periods gave greater latitude for state government to force private entities to do certain things that disrupted their business and potentially cost them profits. Retaining the shorter periods would better tailor actual public need to less disruption of the private sector.

Regardless, the committee approved the measure without objection, although with some expectation that changes would be forthcoming.

SB 417 by Sen. Bodi White would set up a referendum to allow riverboat gambling in Tangipahoa Parish. White said meetings about it would be held and concessions extracted before any government or citizen vote in the parish would occur, which is required by law. Although he said he couldn’t remember which boat wanted to move from Bossier City, he did know the bill specified exactly where the boat would be.

Sen. Greg Tarver asked whether Gov. John Bel Edwards supported the measure, and was told he said he would sign the bill. Local backers touted the economic development benefits, with the investor saying when they bought they intended moving as an option and claimed the market was underserved.

Opponents argued that they did not have the resources to combat pro-gambling interests in swaying voters for the local option election, noted the most problem gamblers resided in the Florida Parishes and was increasing rapidly, the disingenuous nature of the request as the Tangipahoa River was too small to contain a boat, the environmental degradation that would occur in the proposed area, that statewide saturation of gambling meant this exercise was rearranging deck chairs, and that property values would decline.

Sen. Norby Chabert said moving licenses around to areas not currently allowed in law would set a tough precedent and would set the stage for potentially unhealthy deregulation. White closed by saying such an important matter should go to the people.

Chabert made a substitute motion to defer and with a bare quorum present, Sens. Ronnie Johns and Eric LaFleur voted against it. The first motion to approve then received no additional objection.

18 March 2018

Legislative regular session through Mar. 17, 2018

Bill filing continues as legislative action commences:

THE GOOD: SB 462 by Sen. Danny Martiny would create incentives for more building more housing.

THE BAD: HB 701 by Rep. Katrina Jackson would add more people to Louisiana’s overburdened pension system; SB 454 by Sen. Blade Morrish would needlessly dilute and expand the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students.

14 March 2018

Committee action, Mar. 14, 2018: HB 541

HB 541 by Rep. Julie Stokes would amend the constitution essentially to make all sessions equal in subject matter covered instead of separate fiscal and general ones. Off the bat, Stokes asked the House and Governmental Affairs Committee to add an amendment, which was approved, which would leave the current arrangement largely the same, except the general/non-fiscal session could have five fiscal bills filed and statute-companion legislation to amendments would not count against that total.

Jim Patterson of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry spoke against it (although after demurely kissing Stokes on the cheek and pledging friendship between the two despite this issue), saying the group saw any problems as not systemic but a product of robust legislating. He said it was a good system for taxpayers being insulated every other year without fear of tax increases. Rep. Barry Ivey said business didn’t have to limit itself to biannual restrictions on revenue raising, although how he could equate government taking people’s money with business transactions he didn’t explain.

The bill was approved without objection.

12 March 2018

The Good, Bad, and Ugly for the 2018 Regular Session

Hot off an extraordinary session, the Louisiana Legislature now meets for its regular 2018 session. And, as always, we list here the good, bad, and ugly bills prefiled.

THE GOOD: HB 22 by Rep. Barry Ivey would shore up underfunded pension systems; HB 23 by Ivey would reduce the potential for large investment losses by state-run pension funds; HB 30 by Rep. Kevin Pearson would tighten requirements for benefits for persons with disabilities and minor children; HB 39 by Ivey would enroll new employees after fiscal year 2020 into a hybrid defined benefit/contribution pension system (similar bill: SB 14); HB 43 by Pearson would incorporate of the Registrars of Voters Employees' Retirement Plan into the Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System; HB 46 by Rep. Lance Harris would provide for work and community engagement requirements in the state Medicaid program (similar bill: SB 77); HB 54 by Rep. Paul Hollis would make for more realistic recall provisions; HB 78 by Rep. Nancy Landry would clarify hazing penalties; HB 88 by Rep. Sherman Mack would create greater disincentive to commit benefits fraud; HB 123 by Rep. Ray Garofalo would make it illegal to sue requesters of public documents lawfully done; HB 161 by Garofalo would require payback of Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars recipient who lost eligibility; HB 163 by Mack would make it easier to fight Medicaid fraud (similar bill: HB 480); HB 271 by Garofalo would increase school safety (similar bills: HB 332, HB 602, SB 298, SB 406); HB 280 by Rep. Jack McFarland would increase Medicaid client responsibility; HB 281 by Rep. Helena Moreno would increase client safety in nursing homes; HB 321 by Rep. Rick Edmonds would increase government transparency; HB 323 by Rep. Franklin Foil would call a limited constitutional convention focused on fiscal reform (similar bills: HB 385, HB 500, SB 218); HB 334 by Rep. Tony Bacala would establish managed care across the Medicaid services continuum; HB 350 by Rep. Jay Morris would induce greater efficiency in Medicaid implementation for hospitals (similar bill: HB 462); HB 362 by Rep. Frank Hoffman would induce greater efficient in Medicaid waiver program implementation; HB 391 by Pearson would affirm public access to waterways; HB 413 by Ivey would raise TOPS standards and create a transfer award (similar bill: HB 414); HB 418 by Ivey would allow management boards control over tuition; HB 485 by Rep. Rob Shadoin would amend the Constitution to eliminate a number of dedications; HB 530 by Speaker Taylor Barras would compute the expenditure limit calculation in a more realistic manner (similar bill: HB 540); HB 555 by Rep. Polly Thomas would bring greater transparency to public sector collective bargaining; HB 561 by Rep. Julie Emerson gets rid of needless occupational licensing (similar bill: HB 563, HB 623); HB 654 by Landry would expand school choice; HB 664 by Edmonds would facilitate streamlining government; SB 31 by Sen. Conrad Appel would amend the Constitution to disqualify recent felons from serving in political office; SB 34 by Sen. Mike Walsworth would make governments’ economic development efforts more competitive; SB 42 by Appel would reduce wasteful, abusive use of emergency response; SB 43 by Appel would amend the Constitution to consolidate higher education governance; SB 50 by Sen. J.P. Morrell would help discourage use of fake identifying receiving telephone numbers; SB 119 by Morrell would facilitate fraud reduction in Medicaid; SB 300 by Sen. Sharon Hewitt would increase access to services by clients on Medicaid waiver programs; SB 309 by Sen. Gerald Long protects religious freedom; SB 314 by Hewitt would remove intrusive regulations over the wine industry; SB 319  by Sen. Ryan Gatti would pare unneeded boards; SB 325 by Sen. John Milkovich would provide better enforcement of abortion legal practices; SB 347 by Hewitt would increase funding to waivers programs through more efficient delivery; SB 357 by Appel would require managed care of long-term supports and services programs; SB 364 by Sen. Rick Ward would strengthen free expression protections in higher education; SB 450 by Sen. Blade Morrish would make TOPS more efficient (similar bill: SB 452).

THE BAD: HB 79 by Mack would prevent families from protecting vulnerable relatives in nursing homes; HB 89 by Rep. Pat Smith would portray inaccurately constituencies in electoral districts; HB 99 by Rep. Katrina Jackson would create a needless new government board; HB 126 by Rep. Edmond Jordan would create unnecessary bureaucracy (similar bill: HB 635); HB 143 by Rep. Julie Stokes would amend the Constitution to create another dedication; HB 162 by Rep. Terry Landry would encourage violent crime by ending capital punishment for new offenders; HB 180 by Rep. Denise Marcelle would politicize groundwater management around Baton Rouge;  HB 192 by Rep. Joseph Bouie would establish a job-killing minimum wage (similar bills: SB 159, SB 162, SB 252); HB 202 by Rep. Kenny Havard would amendment the Constitution to allow government-owned utilities to charge people differentially based on age; HB 245 by Rep. Major Thibault would expand gambling (similar bills: HB 581, SB 217, SB 230, SB 266); HB 274 by Jordan would risk public safety by letting people get high (similar bill: HB 579); HB 357 by Rep. Denise Marcelle broadens the reach of unsound “hate crime” laws; HB 383 by Rep. Paula Davis rebates taxpayers’ money to first-time homebuyers for three years; HB 461 by Talbot would remove cost discipline on waiver services; HB 499 by Smith would mandate at the state level what should occur at the local level for schools; HB 519 by Smith would impose useless regulations on business pay practices; HB 587 by Hoffman weakens the value of tenure in public schools; HB 605 by Rep. Barbara Norton would enshrine the unequal pay myth into state law; HB 651 by Hoffman would weaken teacher accountability; SB 51 by Morrell would eliminate capital punishment; SB 55 by Milkovich would lead to eroding of educational standards; SB 61 by Sen. Danny Martiny would give judges an unnecessary pay raise; SB 71 by Sen. Beth Mizell would make enforcing safety at child care centers more difficult; SB 95 by Sen. Gerald Boudreaux would discriminate against virtual charter schools; SB 117 by Morrell would impose needless bureaucratic requirements on state contractors (similar bills: HB 251, SB 118); SB 140 by Gatti would have the state largely pay for veteran benefits already conveyed by the federal government; SB 141 by Gatti would add a needless incentive footed by taxpayers for finishing college early; SB 148 by Morrell would amend the Constitution to complicate, rather than reform, property taxation; SB 149 by Morrell would needlessly interfere with business rights on pay transparency (similar bill: HB 328); SB 150 by Morrell would degrade elections integrity (similar bills: HB 265, HB 628, HB 649, SB 449); SB 155 by Sen. Troy Carter would unduly restrict the right to bear arms (similar bills: HB 277, HB 473, HB 603, SB 185, SB 274); SB 200 by Sen. Wesley Bishop would remove a rehabilitation/restitution tool from law enforcement; SB 209 by Sen. Regina Barrow would impose needless costs on struggling businesses; SB 219 by Sen. Troy Carter would overregulate businesses in personnel matters; SB 228 by Morrell inappropriately privileges some behavior and discriminates against some viewpoints in the public schools; SB 262 by Gatti unwisely allows emergency powers to last more than 30 days continuously; SB 276 by Sen. Dan Claitor would restrict unduly eligibility to serve in the majoritarian branches of state government; SB 278 by Claitor would unwisely remove age limitations on service in the judicial branch; SB 292 by Barrow provides too little flexibility for charter school operation; SB 302 by Sen. John Milkovich would interfere in governance of schools; SB 312 by Sen. Eric LaFleur would weaken notice of tax increases by governing authorities; SB 331 by Sen. Yvonne Colomb would increase opportunities to abuse use of mobility impaired hang tags; SB 343 by Sen. Fred Mills would convey special retirement benefits for certain local judges; SB 374 by Barrow requires needless tasks concerning certain state prisoners; SB 380 by Bishop would expand wastefully TOPS; SB 381 by Carter would interfere with charter schools’ educational strategies; SB 444 by Sen. Bodi White would add another unnecessary dedication.

THE UGLY: HB 191 by Rep. Stuart Bishop would regulate what kind of chairs restaurants may have; HB 258 by Garofalo would allow more nursing home beds into a surplus market; why?; HB 317 by Rep. Robbie Carter would change non-chartered Independence change its election dates from all others in the state; why?; HB 340 by Rep. Jim Morris would create another dedication for a trivial purpose; SB 78 by Gatti needlessly would add a crime to the criminal code already covered by it; SB 122 by Sen. Jonathan Perry removes a provision allowing a police chief personnel authority instead of just writing the office out of statute.

10 March 2018

Legislative special session through Mar. 10, 2018

And, nothing much happened as the First Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature went out with a whimper.

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 23 failed to pass the House.

THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 27 passed Senate committee and the Senate and was sent to the governor, where no doubt he will sign it.

03 March 2018

Legislative special session through Mar. 2, 2018

Little more happened this week than last. Because of amendments, HB 23, which would temporarily increase the sales tax for three years, by Rep. Stephen Dwight adds to the list of good bills. Also, SB 8 by Sen. Rick Ward would be like HB 29.

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 2 with minor amendment passed House committee and the House; HB 3 with major amendment passed House committee and passed the House; HB 12 with minor amendment passed the House; HB 29 with minor amendment passed the House; SB 8 with minor amendment passed Senate committee.

THIS WEEK FOR THE BAD: HB 27 passed the House.