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.
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.