When Rick, portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, demands to know why, Renault piously proclaims, “I’m shocked — shocked! — to find that gambling is going on in here!”
At that moment a croupier hands a wad of cash to Renault and says, with perfect deadpan, “Your winnings, sir.”
Renault reflexively takes the cash and says to the croupier, “Oh, thank you very much.” Then, without missing a beat, he turns to the crowd and shouts as he waves his cash-filled hand, “Everybody out at once!”
That scene perfectly sums up the hypocrisy on parade in Baton Rouge these days as relates to Act 469 of 2009. The act grants income tax credits up to $3,000 for those who buy vehicles that burn “alternative fuels.” The act defines such fuels broadly, including “compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, biofuel, biodiesel, methanol, ethanol and electricity.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the measure into law — then everybody pretty much forgot about it.
Three years later, Revenue Secretary Cynthia Bridges, who held her job under three governors, issued an “emergency” ruling that added 112 vehicles (including many popular models) to the law’s application. That seems reasonable given the law’s inclusion of “ethanol” in the definition of “alternative fuels.” She also made the ruling retroactive to 2009.
The timing of Bridges’ ruling is interesting. She issued it April 30, while lawmakers were still in session, and it apparently was something of a state secret — except among leading legislators. Some of them, like House Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, quickly took advantage of Bridges’ ruling and filed amended tax returns. Fannin, in fact, claimed two vehicles. State Senate President John Alario, who owns a tax preparation business, filed for credits on behalf of his clients. All perfectly legal.
Then came news, via the Monroe News-Star, that the fiscal impact of the act had suddenly shot up from the $1 million projected in 2009 to $100 million this year — thanks to Bridges’ retroactive ruling.
At that point, Fannin and other lawmakers proclaimed themselves shocked — shocked! — to find that Bridges had expanded the application of the law so widely, notwithstanding its plain language. Fannin, doing his best impression of Capt. Renault, solemnly told the News-Star, “It could wreck us. ... I just found out about it before the [legislative] session ended [June 4].”
But Fannin is hardly the only Renault in this modern cast of usual suspects. An equally shocked Jindal, fresh from his latest out-of-state GOP star turn, rescinded Bridges’ ruling on technical grounds and promptly accepted her resignation — while thanking her for her service. For now (i.e., until a court challenge), the state will honor credits filed before June 14. Jindal remains mum on how he will address the unequal treatment accorded taxpayers as a result of this snafu.
Meanwhile, the governor has named Deputy Secretary Jane Smith as interim revenue secretary. Smith, it turns out, was lead author of the 2009 alternative fuels tax credit. She was then Rep. Smith, R-Bossier City, but she lost a bid for the state Senate in 2011. Lucky girl, she landed a job in the Jindal Administration — even though, by her own admission, she “didn’t know a thing about revenue, or taxation, or nothing like that.”
Given such eloquence, I’m surprised Jindal didn’t name her poet laureate.
Asked about Bridges’ ruling and the scope of the law she authored, Smith likewise was shocked that it could apply so broadly. She averred that Bridges did not consult her before issuing the ruling. Never mind that Smith knew nothing about revenue, or taxation, or nothing like that.
Smith also proclaimed that she intended the law to apply to compressed natural gas. If that were the case, why did she include so many other “alternative fuels” in her legislation?
Maybe she also didn’t know a thing about bills, or laws, or nothing like that.
Clancy Dubos is publisher of New Orleans' Gambit.
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.