06 May 2008

Floor action, May 6: SB 807, SB 224, SB 232, SB 233, HB 1022

SB 807 would mimic similar legislation in 19 states that would create statewide, rather than local, cable franchises and allow up to five percent of fees collected to go to local governing authorities. Sen. Ann Duplessis initially offered several amendments to make agreements also authorized by local authorities and to give them more control.

Despite a similar bill drawing tremendous discussion and a gubernatorial veto in 2006, the bill passed 27-8.

SB 224 would mandate tenants be members of public housing boards. Sen. Derrick Shepherd said it was only fair. But Sen. Danny Martiny proposed an amendment to exclude Kenner. He said Shepherd brought the bill out of a dispute with Kenner about a particular member serving on a housing board and Kenner officials did not want this, asking as a favor for the Senate to pass this change. Shepherd, under federal indictment, said this was not directed at Kenner and took “great offense” at his integrity being questioned. Martiny said there was no prohibition on tenants serving; a mayor simply could appoint them. The amendment passed 25-5. The bill then failed 16-19.

SB 232 would place term limits, three, on major state boards and commissioners, mostly education and civil service in nature. Sen. Willie Mount said it would take place after 2008 elections. Since it was a constitutional amendment, it took a two-thirds vote to pass, and it did 31-4.

SB 233 by law would extend the three-term limit to all boards and commissions. Author Mount said what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander in terms of term limits. The bill passed 29-4.

HB 1022 would yank benefits from state employees, including elected officials, who commit certain felonies. If unvested employees get convicted, author Rep. Tony Ligi said they would forfeit benefits and the state would get its portion back. If vested, the person loses nothing but no cost-of-living increases would be forthcoming. No subsequent benefits would come their way; garnishment might be possible for restitution.

Rep. Michael Jackson wanted to know who was covered (members of statewide retirement systems) and specifics about potential crimes. He also wanted to know what would happen in the case of a wrongful conviction, but Ligi said he knew of no cases where such a conviction could be overturned. Rep. Jeff Arnold wanted to know what would happen to the “innocents” (spouse and children) of the convicted. Ligi said they would receive the employee part of the pension, and that the persons convicted still go could to work after getting out of jail and did not have to live on a pension. But the state part would stay in the fund. Rep. Rick Gallot asked about how marriage contracts would be affected; Ligi said the spouse had the right in vesting and in the non-vested case, since no right existed, it was a moot point. Rep, Juan LaFonta said in the case of the vested, these penalties would be unfair to the families. Ligi responded by saying the employee needed to take responsibility for these matters. Rep. Cedric Richmond said spouses would still suffer through sacrifices. Ligi said the penalty is not being given by the state, but by the offending spouse by misbehavior. Richmond said this was too much punishment affecting somebody innocent. Ligi argued without this standard, all suffer in the state through malfeasance and a bad reputation that affects economic prospects that also hurt families. Richmond said bills like this dragged down Louisiana’s image.

Ligi waived closing, and the bill failed 39-55.

WENDESDAY: HB 321 and HB 350 are scheduled to be heard by the House Education Committee; HB 808 is scheduled to be heard by the House Health and Welfare Committee.

1 comment:

twister said...

I am so disappointed in our state legislators. Isn't the passing of this bill indicative of what we heard during election time - a press to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions and change the perception of those living here at home as well as the country regarding Louisiana's backwoods political system? Elected officials are supposed to represent their constituents. It just amazes me that those voting against HB1022 could do so with a clear conscience. It is quite clear to me that the alleged campaign to lift Louisiana's reputation up out of the mud was a ruse. An elected official is expected to conduct themselves at a higher personal/professional level. However, in the long run, they are no more important in the scheme of things as any John Smith on the street. Therefore, they should be treated as such when convicted of a felony crime. I don't recall ever hearing of a convicted felon's former employer jumping to the aid of a family whose primary bread winner was arrested for embezzlement or drug use. That family must too suffer the embarrassment and hardships associated with a felony conviction. If former employers aren't sending monthly checks, neither should the public.