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.
Despite sweeping changes enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the health insurance program for state workers and public school employees will have to use $88 million from its reserve fund to cover its costs this year.
The LPSB races are sure to get heated between now and Nov. 4, and with only 9 available seats, this year's field of 20 candidates will surely be wanting to set themselves apart from the crowd early; they'll get their chance next week, starting Tuesday with the kick-off of a three-day series of candidate forums.
Lawmakers say they've received complaints that waits have spiked, with people being forced to wait in line for more than an hour — and sometimes three hours — to handle routine tasks.
The campaign announced that Rep. Stuart Bishop of District 43 and Nancy Landry, District 31, have thrown their support behind the Naval Academy graduate and entrepreneur in his bid to unseat current Hunter Beasley in District 8.
A Lafayette man with an alleged taste for child porn was busted Thursday evening during a cyber crime sting launched by the Attorney General’s Office.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister says his chief of staff is on temporary leave after being booked with drunken driving.
It was a rare moment in Congress this week as Republicans briefly put aside partisanship in support of President Barack Obama's request to train and arm Syrian rebels, and while a number of Democrats opposed the measure, Louisiana's Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu found herself on the same side of the issue as her Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.
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City-Parish President Joey Durel is asking the council to sign off on a resolution approving a pair of deals that would lead to razing the seedy Lesspay Motel at Four Corners to build a new police substation as well as transforming nearly a block Downtown where the old federal courthouse building now molders into a mixed-use development.
In 2013, the IRS — already the least popular governmental agency in the country — became the target of intense investigations after it was revealed that they had specifically and improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status from organizations associated with the nascent Tea Party movement.
Improving the running game was "a point of emphasis" during the offseason and the results have manifested themselves in the form of substantially greater production.
Louisiana's health department said Wednesday that its evaluation of the state's Medicaid privatization was on target, despite criticism from the legislative auditor that it lacked key data and contained inconsistencies.
The feds converge on your office, seizing records on several employees as part of a pay-for-plea investigation. WWYD? If you’re Mike Harson, you give yourself a $12k raise.
It’s football season and after back-to-back winless weekends for the Saints and the Cajuns many citizens are finding it difficult to be civil much less happy. Well, chew on this.
Considering his repeated stays in the local penal system, David Narcisse Jr. should have known that having a semiautomatic shotgun, even one given to him by a friend, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.
A state district judge on Tuesday threw out a last-minute retirement hike lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent, ending a political firestorm over a pension boost passed without public scrutiny on the last day of the legislative session.
The House has passed a bill to increase oversight of veterans' hospitals under construction, following a report that some medical centers take three years longer to complete than estimated and cost an extra $366 million per project.
An obvious follow-up question for any Republican politician who accuses Democrats of being science deniers is one about science, to which Jindal bobbed and weaved like a welterweight champ.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is expected to decide tonight (Tuesday) whether to go along with a proposal City-Parish President Joey Durel made in February’s State of the Parish Address and consolidate taxes for mosquito control and the parish health units into a broader tax program that would also cover animal control.
U.S. District Judge Richard Haik has dismissed Greg Davis’ lawsuit against the LPSB, yet in his ruling, the federal judge doesn’t bite his tongue in pointing out the "threat" being posed by certain board members.
Of all the political offices being contested throughout Lafayette Parish, the race for Broussard’s top police post has literally become one of the most heated.
A state district judge is deciding whether to issue an injunction against the enforcement of a last-minute retirement hike that lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent.
A new website is up for Louisiana's state government employees and retirees to choose their health insurance plans for next year, a choice they must make by October.
That fact that New Orleans led both games in the final 10 seconds of regulation, and lost each by a field goal or less, is of little solace.