29 April 2013

Committee action, Apr. 29: HB 576, HB 331, HB 162

HB 576 by Rep. Chris Broadwater would create a special statewide taxing district that would use a state property tax, approved by voters, with funding dedicated to higher education academic operations, run by higher education management boards. It pegs the amount to general funding, where it is not supposed to compensate for reductions in state support. The homestead exemption would apply. He offered up an amendment that said these votes could happen only when at least another statewide election was on the ballot, and the House Ways and Means Committee adopted it without objection.

He defended against the notion that it was a tax increase by saying it simply created a choice. Opponent Tim Barfield of the Department of Revenue said it would allow one part of the state to impose on another even if they have very divergent views on the tax, and it disproportionately affects those on fixed incomes. Broadwater tried to draw an analogy between statewide elections for taxation and that of U.S. Senators, and that the fixed income argument was different. He noted that a few taxing districts had been created in the past couple of years – but all examples given were local.

He moved to report, which received objection, and it failed 6-11, most favorable votes coming from Democrats.

27 April 2013

Legislative regular session through Apr. 27, 2013

Note: For those unfamiliar with the process, a legislative committee may “hear” a bill by deferring it to a future session. Thus, it may consider the bill later and take some kind of action on it then. This also applies when the author voluntarily defers the bill, because it theoretically could be brought back up later, or when there is action taken upon but no formal resolution to a bill, as occurred this week with SB 153. Finally, even when a bill is approved by a committee, rules or a preference to have another referral may send it to another committee instead of to the chamber floor.

Also, during the session sometimes “substitute” bills are filed, as noted in last week’s post. This occurs when a previously-introduced bill is changes substantially, which effectively negates the previous bill. For example, HB 21 has been substituted for by HB 717 in this session.

THIS WEEK FOR THE GOOD: HB 717 with major amendment passed the House; SB 20 with minor amendment passed Senate committee; SB 118 with major amendment passed the Senate.

24 April 2013

Committee action, Apr. 24: HB 341, SB 20, SB 68, SB 153

HB 341 by Rep. Tim Burns is the omnibus election bill, a version of which tweaks the election code. Mostly very marginal and uncontroversial in nature, this year’s has the intriguing change of deleting the requirement of publishing the inactive voter list in print and, after an amendment, to put it online. Representatives of the Secretary of State told the House and Governmental Affairs Committee this allowed for constant viewing of the list, that many parishes no longer even had newspapers locally to print the lists, and would reduce costs.

Opponents representing newspaper interests were present, but did not speak to criticize that part of the bill. Without objection, the bill with amendments was approved.

SB 20 by Sen. Bret Allain would require more advance notice when local governments desire to raises taxes in one form or another, with at least 30 days of notice of a meeting to do so. After minor amendments were approved, the bill was approved by the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee without objection.

23 April 2013

Committee action, Apr. 23: HB 623, HB 537


HB 537 by Rep. Katrina Jackson would amend the Constitution to raise tobacco taxes and dedicate the funds as by subsequent law. She deferred HB 623, which would do the same except not dedicate anything. She started with an amendment that dedicated revenues specifically to Medicaid and medical education, as well to pay down unfunded accrued liabilities, which was offered by Rep. Chris Broadwater and was adopted without objection.

She briefly described the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee and took technical questions and clarifications. A list of supporters’ and a very lengthy list of opponents’ names were read off, although most declared they didn’t want to speak on the matter.

Interestingly, the American Cancer Society declared itself against the bill, because the amount of increase of 32 cents a pack on cigarettes it deemed insufficient to change behavior. Retailer representatives predictably said business would be hurt, and pointed out outdated information from Jackson. They claimed it would not generate revenues predicted and even put the industry out of business and hurt customers.

Jackson, in closing, expressed disappointment that the ACS would testify against the bill, and claimed the bill would decrease medical costs. She said these revenues also could go to educating health care professionals to fight deleterious effect of smoking.

The bill failed 7-12.

20 April 2013

Legislative regular session through Apr. 20. 2013

It was the last week to file bills, so except for substitutes that will take the place of others or the exceptional circumstance where a bill gets mutated into something good or bad by amendment, the list is complete. Withdrawn bills prior to the end of filing also have been struck from the list.

THE GOOD: HB 680 by Rep. Dee Richard would repeal corporate income and franchise taxes (similar bills: HB 700, HB 715); HB 689 by Richard would reduce individual income taxes and provides for changes in exceptions (similar bill: HB 701); HB 696 by Rep. Jack Montoucet reduces of eliminates many less-useful tax exceptions; SB 256 by Sen. Dan Claitor would clarify which vehicles may receive an alternative fuel tax credit.

THE BAD: HB 675 by Rep. Karen St. Germain would increase fuel taxes annually by the rate of inflation; HB 679 by Rep. Erich Ponti would expand the use of the wasteful film tax credit (similar bill: HB 693); HB 682 by Rep. Paul Hollis would create more sales tax exclusions for a special interest (similar bills: HB 702, SB 248); HB 704 by Rep. Katrina Jackson would raise state income taxes; HB 706 by Rep. Barbara Norton would take away voter’s veto power over a portion of Shreveport’s sales tax; HB 707 by Rep. Marcus Hunter effectively would increase sales taxes paid by certain business by not reimbursing them for being tax collectors for the state; HB 709 by Hunter would introduce legislative micromanagement into certain tax exemption decisions; HB 711 by Rep. Regina Barrow in statute would tax single-use grocery bags; HB 712 by Jackson would raise taxes automatically in times of forecast budget deficit rather than look for reduction of spending; HB 713 by Rep. Julie Stokes would increase sales taxes paid by certain business by not reimbursing them for being tax collectors for the state and raise tobacco taxes.

13 April 2013

Legislative regular session through Apr. 13, 2013

As noted in the initial list, with the announcement that the entire package presented by Gov. Bobby Jindal for tax reform would not be presented, individual bills were added to the good and bad, along with any others filed the first week of the session.

THE GOOD: HB 271 by Rep. Hunter Greene would repeal income taxes over time (similar bills: HB 505, HB 507, HB 669; SB 138); HB 338 by Rep. Harold Ritchie would lower corporate income taxes; HB 394 by Ritchie would reduce individual income tax rates (similar bill: HB 609); HB 634 by Rep. Alan Seabaugh would reduce both corporate income and franchise taxes (similar bill: HB 637).

THE BAD: HB 304 by Rep. Kirk Talbot increases tobacco taxes but does not dedicate the increase to a non-recurring purpose related to smoking (similar bill: HB 574); HB 536 by Rep. Katrina Jackson would increase income taxes for many individuals and corporations; HB 610 by Talbot would add state sales taxes to additional transactions (similar bill: HB 653).

10 April 2013

Committee action, Apr. 10: SB 202, SB 45, SB 31, SB 118

SB 202 by Sen. Ben Nevers would change the grade point average requirements for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars, by elevating quality points earned for certain kinds of advanced kinds of classes or core courses. After some minor amendments were accepted, State Education Superintendent John White argued the bill better aligned diplomas with TOPS and simplified the how the two related. It would take effect for the college entrance class of 2017, not throwing curveballs to students already in progress.

The committee approved favorably without objection.

SB 45 by Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb would merge a few Baton Rouge-area technical college campuses into Baton Rouge Community College. The technical college’s tuition rates for continuing students would remain the same for two years and maintain programs. There would be costs, but they would be covered by the tuition increase for new students. System President Joe May said this would cut administrative costs and allow money to be rolled into the classroom.

After approved minor amendments, the committee approved favorably without objection.