23 May 2005

Floor action, May 32: HB 80

It’s with deep regret that I must switch a bill from the “good” to “bad” category. I was hoping against hope with state Rep. Peppi Bruneau’s HB 80 which changes state officials’ terms to a presidential-election quadrennial cycle. As far as timing goes, particularly for the GOP it’s a good idea because Louisiana’s Republican tendencies will be accentuated in national election years – it’ll be harder for “moderate” (in name if not in practice) Democrats to dissociate themselves with the hard left that has taken over the national party. As far as savings go, it can save the state quite a bit (the fiscal note says over $6 million).

But in its present form it missed an opportunity, in exchange for the extra year officials would be allowed to serve (because the Constitution prohibits shortening present terms) to make for stricter term limits. The present Constitutional rule is three consecutive terms in one chamber; it should be changed to three terms consecutive terms in any chamber. (Of course, since this also is a Constitutional amendment, as part of it this text could have read to shorten terms and save some money by reducing this term to 2006, then making the next a two-year term, then resuming with four-year terms – costing perhaps no extra money in 2006 because of pending Congressional elections.)

However, the bill was not amended this way and it got a vote 62-33. That's short of the needed two-thirds for a constitutional amendment but with 10 members absent and a little backroom maneuvering it may get the 70 votes necessary -- without any changes. The Senate still could amend the bill to exchange real term limits for the extra year, or to make the two-terms-from-one move, but that’s unlikely. Then it would be up to the people to decide whether they think their present legislators should get an extra year in office.

TUESDAY: HB 799 is scheduled to be heard in the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee; HB 415 and HB 694 are scheduled to be heard in the House and Governmental Affairs Committee; HB 242 is scheduled to be heard in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

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