19 February 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Prefiled bills -- Week of Feb. 18, 2005

The GOOD: SB 1, lead author Sen. James David Cain. Restores the income tax deduction for excess federal itemized deductions.
The Stelly Plan wiped out any deductions in excess of the federal standard deduction that could be used on state income taxes. The plan was supposed to shift the tax burden away from disadvantaged households but with this elimination it made matters worse for some. For example, a family with high health care costs now can get no tax relief for them from Louisiana from this source. It will cost some revenue but the increased economic activity from it should more than compensate. (Cain, however, has said he wants this to be amended to gradually pahase in the reinstatement.) This is a must-pass piece of legislation and, with a dozen Senate co-sponsors already, its chances may not be so bad.

The BAD: SB2, author Sen. Cleo Fields. Provides a refundable, state earned income tax credit equal to 20% of the federal credit.
This is intended to work like a miniature federal Earned Income Credit. That is, you get this money handed to you from the government if your income isn't high enough. As such, it provides more incentive not to work or to work less. It flies in the face of welfare reform almost a decade ago that cut Louisiana welfare recipients rolls to a fraction of their former level. It discourages work and encourages a higher budget deficit with no economic benefits.

The UGLY: HR4, author Rep. Mickey Frith. Allows an immediate family member of the district attorney of the Thirty-Eighth Judicial District to be employed in the office of the district attorney as an assistant district attorney.
Apparently (I'm not very knowledgeable about Cameron Parish politics, believe it or not), 38th Judicial District Attorney Cecil Sanner wants to hire a direct relative as an assistant district attorney in his office, currently prohibited by state law. I make no argument here on the merit of this individual nor in any way am I impugning Sanner's motives, but this bill is another example of how statutes gets micromanaged in this state, particularly in a way that could have an adverse ethical impact. This bill carves out just an exception for the 38th and no other. Nor does it stipulate any additional qualifications or protections from nepotism that could occur if this were passed. Surely DA Sanner can find somebody else qualified, and his relative can find a good job elsewhere, instead of asking his representative to water down the states' ethics code just for this district.

SCORECARD: House prefiles, 14; Senate prefiles, 5.

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