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.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.