Written by Jeremy Alford
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
The annual legislative session is right around the corner and brimming with hundreds of bills promising 85 days of … something.
In about a week’s time, lawmakers will gather in Baton Rouge to kick off their 2010 regular session. While there are new fiscal challenges, there will still be the same old cornucopia of policy ideas that will grab our interests, maybe make us laugh and definitely have us scratching our heads.
House Bill 119 by Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs, would classify as litter any printed materials left on a windshield. House Bill 271 by Rep. Fred Mills, D-Parks, creates the crime of illegally selling urine or adulterants to circumvent screening tests.
You want ethics? Rep. Nita Hutter, R-Chalmette, has House Bill 296 to allow a public servant to accept certain gifts for “customary social occasions.” Meals from lobbyists don’t count.
The session’s centerpiece — the budget — weighs in at 259 pages, leaner and meaner than ever at $5 billion less than the current budget. Lawmakers add amendments and try to squeeze every penny for roads and bridges, local infrastructure and, yes, pet projects. But this isn’t the same kind of pliable budget lawmakers are used to seeing; further reductions are expected, and there are more moving pieces than usual.
By the time leges adjourn on June 21, the 2011 horizon will have another $1.7 billion budget shortfall looming. Truly, one could ask whether lawmakers are controlling the budget or the budget is controlling them.
The rub, this year in particular, is that lawmakers cannot file tax bills in regular sessions in even-numbered years. The only revenue-generating measures will be new “fees,” which have already reared their ugly heads in the form of a $15 driver’s license hike, LSU System tuition increase and higher rentals for state park cabins.
Gov. Bobby Jindal promises not to approve any new taxes this year and next, but he doesn’t place fees in the same category. While there’s a handful of opposing voices in both chambers, legislative leaders tend the make the same distinction.
“I’d rather a user fee because it supports a specific portion of state government,” says Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “It’s a better idea than a tax that goes to a centralized government in a lump sum.”
Some will try to stand up to Jindal. Rep. Wayne Waddell, R-Shreveport, is retuning with bills to open more records in Jindal’s office to the public. Jindal’s executive counsel, Stephen Waguespack, told The Advocate of Baton Rouge that his boss is opposed to the concept behind House bills 307 and 499 — again.
Also, as reported here last week, Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, has filed Senate Bill 102, a constitutional amendment to take the governor’s influence out of the legislative leadership election by allowing for confidential ballots. But that dog may not hunt. House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, opposes the measure. “I think our constituents want to know how we vote on everything,” Tucker says. “Secondly, if the purpose is to draw independence, I don’t think it will accomplish that. Ultimately, it’s not the leader who does that, but how the body acts.”
And there’s more: House Bill 470 by Rep. Rickey Hardy, D-Lafayette, is a constitutional amendment that would prohibit a person 70 years old or older from qualifying for elective office. That should put to rest any thoughts about former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ post-prison political career.
House Bill 503 by Rep. Michael Danahay, D-Sulphur, establishes the “Louisiana Homemade Beer Law” to determine the “amount of homemade beer that may be made” and how it can be transported to “exhibitions, contests, competitions, fairs, or festivals.”
Speaking of festivals, at least one citizen rally is slated for opening day (Monday, March 29). The Louisiana faction of the Tea Party has secured the steps of the Capitol for a noon gathering, according to Pat Bergeron, publisher of Louisiana Political News Service.
While there is no shortage of topics, voters may need a taste of homemade brew by the time the session closes. Who knows — the Tea Party may morph into a beer blast. Stranger things have happened.
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.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Ten departing CEOs rake in $430 million; profile of FSU gunman emerges; Buffalo's weather woes and more national and international news for Friday, November 21, 2014.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.
Add Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name to the list of possible Republican presidential candidates flooding the campaign trail for GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Florida this week with his fellow Republican governors for another gripe session aimed at their favorite target, the president, this time taking aim at his immigration plans.
Early voting for the runoff is shortened by two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Coach Don” Gagnard is running for school board. Today he offers his critique of the socioeconomic relationship between government subsidies and obesity.
Former Le Rosier chef who cooked at the James Beard House and was named one of the “Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine in 1995 was 48.
Pat Cooper is contesting his termination by the LPSB, filing a petition Tuesday that calls the recent decision “arbitrary and capricious.”
A look at the numbers highlights the challenge facing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as she tries to win a fourth term in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.
A national animal rights group has been rebuffed by a Baton Rouge district court judge, although the group might still get its day in court.
The administration says public college campuses won't be on the chopping block.
The legendary musician is performing at a $1,000-per-person fundraiser Dec. 1 in New Orleans.
Old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and other unclaimed money is sent to the state when a business cannot locate someone.