11 November 2005

Committee action, Nov. 10: HB 59, SB 11, SB 14, SB 55

Welcome to the Louisiana Senate: its newest senator Julie Quinn got peppered by questions from fellow senators on the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee concerning her SB 11, and related bills, which seemed fairly obvious in its intent. It is intended to allow assessment of properties at their values after “public calamities” to apply for the entire year, rather than prorated values. Some openly wondered whether the legislation was constitutional. Other witnesses argued this would cut local government’s ability to provide services and rebuild. Quinn argued that her bill was being hijacked by SB 14, Tom Schedler’s version, muddying the waters concerning her bill.

This question, reassessment vs. prorata, had to be deferred as the Senate was convening. It recovened about an hour-and-a–half later. The subject turned to whether a compromise could be reached between the two, where different parishes could choose different approaches. Eventually, Robert Adley proposed that the state completely step out of the process and give the parishes the right to determine which way they would go. The committee agreed and thus ended the marathon session.

Adley argued that his SB 55 only notified people about provisions in their insurance policies. This is true: a couple of days previously the Senate Insurance Committee effectively gutted the parts of the bills which would have forced insurers to write policies anywhere in the state and potentially force these companies to not make policyholders pay deductibles unless the federal government picked up the tab. It is almost identical to SB 48 by Edwin Murray. As such, it may go no further in the House if Murray’s bill is preferred and, having been rendered harmless, will be dropped from the list of bad bills.

One of Jalila Jefferson-Bullock’s obnoxious trio of bills, HB 59, did squeak through the House and Governmental Affairs Committee by a single vote along partisan lines. While there were many amendments to it that got rid of its worst features, it still will allow for phantom residents of parishes to be able to vote. While it limits the time period (one year) and dictates that only those who have voted in a way other than by mail previously are subject to it, it still would allow people outside of their parish of residence to vote by claiming they really are still “residents” of the parish even if they subsequently never return. This would be in affect for anybody voting early in the 2006 congressional elections (perhaps in order to save her embattled father’s seat), as well as New Orleans city elections.

THE GOOD: HB 150 by Mike Powell would amend the Constitution to create more fiscal discipline by creating a fund in which to put any donations, other one-time sources of revenues, and non-recurring revenues. It would act like a lockbox that could be raided only if a projected deficit breached $900 million (in other words, for this year). Further, it would remove funds ordinarily to be dumped into the Budget Stabilization Fund for this past year into this fund, meaning these dollars could not be redirected this into operating expenditures, as some have proposed for this year.

THE BAD: On the other hand, Willie Hunter’s HB 153 and HB 154 are a light version of John Alario’s HB 152 and HB 145 and HB 146 to provide the constitutional amendment vehicle for them; Hunter’s allows raiding of the Budget Stabilization Fund when it is in excess of $461 million in the near term (as it is, which would allow drawing out more money than the Constitution currently would allow). Alario also swapped out HB 151 for HB 140, making the threshold that could be put into the fund seven rather than four percent of general fund revenues. Twice nothing is still nothing.

FRIDAY: Believe it or not, HB 31 and HB 76 are scheduled still yet again to be heard by the House Commerce Committee.

“This is Sen. Adley’s ‘get the freshman’ technique.”
Quinn, half-jokingly, about Adley’s pointed questions about SB 11 and SB 14. Adley replied she would get the right to close, but that it rarely equalized accounts.

Total House introductions: 155; total Senate introductions: 92.

Total House good bills: 5; total Senate good bills: 5.

Total House bad bills: 10; total Senate bad bills: 3.

Total House good bills heard in committee: 3; total Senate good bills heard in committee: 2.

Total House bad bills heard in committee: 5; total Senate bad bills heard in committee: 2

Total House good bills passing committee: 3; total Senate good bills passing committee: 1.

Total House bad bills passing committee: 1; total Senate bad bills passing committee: 0

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