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.
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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
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.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)