05 November 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Prefiled bills -- Week of Nov. 4, 2005

Welcome to coverage of the 2005 First Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature. As in the past, this blog will identify the best and worst bills from the session from Nov. 6 to possibly Nov. 22, and periodically report on the committee and floor actions, and the ultimate fate, of these bills. Given the narrow subject areas of the call, obviously hurricane-related, we should not expect to see many, if any, bills with a substantial long-term impact emerge, but who knows with this gang?

The short prefiling session permitted after the announcement of the call has produced some bills of note:

THE GOOD: HB 9 by Eric LaFleur represents a limited, but always welcome, effort to impose meaningful ethics constraints on elected officials, in this case legislators’ dealings with contracts related to hurricane disaster reconstruction. All it really does is ask for reporting of certain transactions, but that’s better than nothing. HB 25 by Joel Robideaux increases deduction from state income taxes for federal income taxes paid by the amount of presidential disaster area disaster relief credits. This allows for a greater tax deduction from state taxes for people victimized by the disasters. SB 5 by Tom Schedler gives authority to governments to temporarily slash compensation of without having to lay off employees, critically necessary as thousands of them currently are getting paid for not doing anything.

THE BAD: HB 16 by John LaBruzzo only complicates and makes more subjective the present law dealing with commerce around disasters by creating a separate crime of “price gouging,” the vagueness of which makes it ripe for politically-motivated prosecutions. HB 31 by Troy Hebert does not allow a contractor who subcontracts disaster-related work from keeping more than 15% of the total contract paid (that is, at least 85% of the amount must be paid out to subcontractors). This is a clumsy law the stunts entrepreneurial activity. Its goal is to prevent people (perhaps possibly connected to government officials) from making a lot of money simply acting as little more than go-betweens. Much better would amendments to create a sliding scale; that is, as the profit percentage for the contractor relative to the subcontractors goes higher, a large and larger portion of it must be returned to the government. SB 6 by Charles Jones removes certain ant-fraud safeguards in voting by mail. Unless the bill is changed to specify this provision applies only to those who registered by mail prior to the disasters, it would allow for the registration of phantom residents and have them vote, all without ever being verified by registrars. Jones also introduced SB 7 which would allow a handful of state officials (not even the entire Legislature) to alter unilaterally temporal aspects of voter registration and voting, again inviting fraud into the process.

Total House introductions: 33; total Senate introductions: 12.

Total House good bills: 2; total Senate good bills: 1.

Total House bad bills: 2; total Senate bad bills: 2.

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