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.
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand: