01 May 2017

Committee action, May 1: HB 187, HB 527

HB 187 would erase even earlier the solar energy tax credit but in return make sure that all tax credits paid out. Rep. Greg Cromer told the House Ways and Means Committee that the cap on the program meant some people that had entered the program prior to its previous attenuation would not gain access to the credit. He and others also thought it fair to make sure these people got access to the credit. He also said that it would have ended the leasing aspect of the program six months early, but then said he didn’t want to do that and asked for an amendment to be offered to do it. That was done. More than one member claimed part of the problem came from unscrupulous vendors selling the credit without full information. He said it would not expand the program in any way.

Reps. Major Thibault and Ted James expressed concern that the budget would take a $15.7 million hit, as well as no one seemed entirely sure what the final figure might be. Another amendment would cut off the date for purchase at the end of 2015, making that figure hard. Cromer argued that the amendment would not cover people suckered by unscrupulous dealers, and opposed it. Rep. Dodie Horton thought the amendment needed not to make the credit open-ended through the date in the bill, the end of fiscal year 2017, and assessment with which Secretary of Revenue Kimberly Robinson agreed.

But as Chairman Neil Abramson was off testifying elsewhere and Cromer had said he had told him he would not offer that amendment currently, Vice Chairman Jim Morris said he would not have the amendment offered. Thibault said he would offer a similar amendment if it made it to the floor, arguing that buyers needed to assume some responsibility. James said to extend the date would encourage expansion of the cost as people jumped in. Horton said the state need not facilitate unscrupulous behavior.

Ken Antee, former Shreveport chief administrator and current solar installation company president, testified he thought the timeline given notification of the cap’s breaching last year made a cutoff of the end of FY 2016 for purchased systems. Multiple committee members liked that idea. Eventually, an amendment conforming to that suggestion came forward, which was adopted.

This seemed to palliate opposition, and it passed without objection.

HB 527 by Rep. Kenny Havard would bring state regulation to rideshare companies in a safe way. This approach would diminish confusion and serve better, an Uber representative testified, saying 42 states have followed the same approach. An amendment would have the Department of Agriculture and Forestry conduct oversight.

Opponents argued said this service remained best regulated at the local level and that local governments could make better decisions regarding safety, deliver greater transparency for auditing purposes, and would be a worse financial deal for these governments. They claimed it would create an unregulated transition period. They also recommended grandfathering current local ordinances and give home rule entities the choice to opt in.

Rep. Denise Marcelle wondered whether grandfathering could work until local agreements expired and what could be done for any loss of local revenue. She thought statewide regulation best, but how to get there the problem.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Strain outlined his department’s oversight activities that included common carriers and noted some auditing must protect business competitive interests. However, representatives from the Public Service Commission argued that giving Agriculture statewide oversight would cause a constitutional breach, despite a Supreme Court ruling that said transportation network companies were not common carriers.

Havard disputed that New Orleans’ money loss would be as great as they argued and said Baton Rouge would receive more. He said negotiation could occur with fees. Other proponents noted that few states regarded TNCs as common carriers. He closed by saying this was an inexpensive solution to traffic woes and increased safety.

There were no objections, and the bill was adopted.

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