28 May 2013

Committee action, May 28: SB 215, SB 188

SB 215 by Sen. David Heitmeier would allow for Mississippi River ferries in the New Orleans area to be operated with money from the state. Rep. Jeff Arnold explained to the House Appropriations Committee that without Crescent City Connection tolls, in order to run ferries money that would have gone to the CCC from fees collected from trucks and trailers in Orleans Parish that also go to the Causeway to pay off its bonds. The other half had been paying off CCC bonds but now would go to the Chalmette ferry. It would not include the Canal Street ferry although a subsequent agreement could include operation of more, and the $4 million subsidy would sunset in 2018.

Rep. Robert Billiot asked about privatization efforts and whether attempts would continue. He was told they were looking at the Regional Transit Authority (which is not a private operator) to do that next year.

With no opposition, the bill passed.

SB 188 by Sen. Danny Martiny would give pay raises to judges across Louisiana, the last having been three years ago. Martiny, who also serves as chairman of the Judicial Compensation Commission, said it recommended these even in these tight budgetary times because it would help have a quality judiciary. The roughly 5 percent raises this year then about 2 percent for the next few years he said would keep up with other states. He said this next year’s pay raise would be funded out of the current budget without need for a special general fund appropriation.

Rep. John Schroder asked what would happen after the grace period on new dollars. He said after then this would be asking for these, and that he didn’t want to hear poor-mouthing for more money in the future by the judiciary. The committee had already considered a 1 percent cut for this year, and he warned the judiciary could be creating a problem for itself.

Rep. Ledricka Thierry then offered amendments to get rid of the prohibition of the requirement that linked sheriffs’ salaries to judges’ salaries and a few other parish officials to give them a raise also. Martiny said this would not come out state, but local, dollars. Notably, sheriffs’ raises were conditioned on their achievement of in-service training. Committee vice chairwoman Simone Champagne said some parish president got paid the average of several parish officials including sheriffs. The amendment passed without objection.

Without objection, the bill passed.

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