20 March 2018

Committee action, Mar. 20: SB 262, SB 417

SB 262 by Sen. Ryan Gatti would expand gubernatorial powers during declared emergencies and extend the time period for which the declarations would last. Governor’s Office General Counsel Matthew Block explained the two parts of the bill to Senate Judiciary Committee B, one of which would allow for streamlining certain legal motions. The other would lengthen a declaration’s time from 30 to 90 days, with Block saying most disaster periods lasted far longer than either limit, meaning frequent renewals.

Originally, opponents of the bill didn’t wish to speak, but after Sen. Karen Peterson expressed surprise that opposition existed, one did, saying that longer periods gave greater latitude for state government to force private entities to do certain things that disrupted their business and potentially cost them profits. Retaining the shorter periods would better tailor actual public need to less disruption of the private sector.

Regardless, the committee approved the measure without objection, although with some expectation that changes would be forthcoming.

SB 417 by Sen. Bodi White would set up a referendum to allow riverboat gambling in Tangipahoa Parish. White said meetings about it would be held and concessions extracted before any government or citizen vote in the parish would occur, which is required by law. Although he said he couldn’t remember which boat wanted to move from Bossier City, he did know the bill specified exactly where the boat would be.

Sen. Greg Tarver asked whether Gov. John Bel Edwards supported the measure, and was told he said he would sign the bill. Local backers touted the economic development benefits, with the investor saying when they bought they intended moving as an option and claimed the market was underserved.

Opponents argued that they did not have the resources to combat pro-gambling interests in swaying voters for the local option election, noted the most problem gamblers resided in the Florida Parishes and was increasing rapidly, the disingenuous nature of the request as the Tangipahoa River was too small to contain a boat, the environmental degradation that would occur in the proposed area, that statewide saturation of gambling meant this exercise was rearranging deck chairs, and that property values would decline.

Sen. Norby Chabert said moving licenses around to areas not currently allowed in law would set a tough precedent and would set the stage for potentially unhealthy deregulation. White closed by saying such an important matter should go to the people.

Chabert made a substitute motion to defer and with a bare quorum present, Sens. Ronnie Johns and Eric LaFleur voted against it. The first motion to approve then received no additional objection.

No comments: