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BC, if not LA, should ban smoking at casinos

Bossier City’s long history of trying to count coup on Shreveport for once might serve it well, with an opportunity presenting itself through a blunder by the latter.

For decades, Bossier City leaders have burdened themselves with a psychological inferiority complex relating to their larger and better-known (and, to many outsiders, with a more easily-pronounceable name) neighbor across the Red River. Feeling overshadowed, they have pursued policies attempting to make their city stand out from, if not look better than, Shreveport.

Usually, it has led to undesirable consequences. Leaders chafed when no comprehensive hospital located in Bossier City, so they decided to build the government-run Bossier Medical Center. That worked out until it became apparent that Willis-Knighton Systems would come to town with an initial offer allegedly for $42 million to buy BMC, whereupon egos kicked in and city leaders refused it. WKS then built its own, drove BMC numbers steeply into the red, and in a short time the city had a fire sale of the facility, which no longer operates, for $18 million. (Two city councilors from that era, no party Jeff Darby and Democrat Bubba Williams, still serve on the Council.)


Combo bills increase tax-cutting leverage

An alliance between those that don’t want to see smaller government in Louisiana and who understand the little use the state’s Quality Jobs Program has might form over Republican state Sen. Bret Allain’s SB 1 and SB 6.

His two bills rest a just a step short of legislative completion, now ready for the House floor. SB 1 would phase out the corporate franchise tax, which few states have and, because it taxes the total worth of a corporation it depresses investment and can cause cash flow problems, if not failure, when businesses don’t turn a profit. Of those states with one, Louisiana’s is the most punitive as it has the highest rate without a cap. The bill lops off a quarter of the tax over six calendar years starting in 2025 annually when the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund has an inflow in the associated fiscal year, which occurs when corporate income and franchise taxes together exceed $600 million annually.

Present law formulaically reduces the rate whenever the amount is exceeded. At last week’s Revenue Estimating Conference meeting, economists described as likely under current law the franchise tax rate would decline significantly if current forecasts manifest into reality. Given that testimony, SB 1 should also trigger a reduction, although it’s uncertain whether that would be as much, but trends suggest it would eliminate the whole thing by the 2031 end and perhaps as early as 2029.


Election outsourcing prohibition tries third time

Louisiana’s state senators need to emulate their House counterparts and give voters the chance to declare constitutionally that the state’s elections aren’t for sale, and in timely fashion.

HB 311 by Republican state Rep. Blake Miguez would amend the Constitution to prohibit foreign governments or nongovernmental sources to fund elections. Somewhat vaguely the prohibition exists in statute, but doesn’t apply to local elections, so passage of this by voters this fall would put it beyond statute’s reach and cover all elections.

The political left opposes such matters because its forces have had success in putting the thumb on the scale by outsourcing elections. Hundreds of millions of dollars from private sources, overwhelmingly funded by big-money donors who support leftist causes, problematically either disproportionately were directed towards election units that disproportionately vote for Democrats and/or funded outreach efforts of lower ballot security that invited unscrupulous behavior.


Bonus bucks no reason to bust LA spending cap

So, Louisiana has nearly three-quarters of a billion more bucks believed to flow into state coffers through fiscal year 2025, above and beyond required diversions. This should change nothing regarding the budget the House sent to the Senate earlier this month.

The latest meeting of the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference approved a forecast for this fiscal year of $323 million more and just over $400 million more for the next. After mandatory distributions to the Budget Stabilization Fund, the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund, to pay down unfunded accrued liabilities, and to meet coastal restoration, this adds on to a previously recognized half-million dollars or so above the state’s expenditure limit, a restriction which may be breached only by two-thirds supermajorities in each legislative chamber that hasn’t come close to fruition.

As a result, the BSF will hit its maximum of just over $900 million, which can be spent by as much as a third when actual revenues undershoot forecasts provided it wasn’t tapped the previous year. The RSTF, which accrues corporate income and franchise tax collections above $600 million annually, at nearing $1.7 billion remains well below its $5 billion trigger point, where when hitting that up to a tenth a year may be used for capital projects by legislative majorities, although at any time any amount may be sucked out by supermajorities.


Horton, Seabaugh making themselves hard targets

Let’s just say the timing of the old Bossier political establishment isn’t great this legislative election cycle.

The Benton courthouse gang and major portions of the Bossier Parish School Board and Bossier City Council prefer compliant state legislators who won’t work in support of forcing accountability and limited government onto local governments and will carry their water to milk the state as much as possible for their preferred interests. By those metrics, a couple of area legislators have provoked the establishment’s ire.

As a result of reapportionment, six districts will represent substantial portions of Bossier Parish from 2024 on. One is a new House district that extends south of the parish line and three others involve unquestionably fiscal and social conservative incumbents: GOP state Reps. Danny McCormick and Raymond Crews and Republican state Sen. Robert Mills. In their initial elections, both Crews and Mills faced establishment-backed candidates (brothers, in fact), but won.


LA needs well-defined initiative process

An initiative process isn’t a bad thing. Yet HB 165 by Democrat state Rep. Mandie Landry that would introduce this tool of direct democracy doesn’t get that job done and needs significant improvement to merit its passage.

The bill would add to the Constitution an initiative procedure to allow a popular vote to pass a law, repeal a law, or amend the Constitution. Such an idea works well when a sufficient mass of the public desires one of these things, as the Legislature may find itself pressured by special interests to keep things from entering code. After all, even a well-funded special interest will find it much easier to exert pressure on just 144 legislators rather than a couple of million voters.

But problematically, Landry’s bill doesn’t define these parameters and leaves these in the hands of the Legislature. If going to the trouble of amending the Constitution, exactitude is necessary. A review of the states that allow for an initiative process shows about half do so, and of those for altering statute the median is 10 percent of votes cast for governor in the previous election. Most also have geographic requirements that ensure at least some broad-based assent across their states.


Social liberal Edwards losing grasp on power

Besides offering more evidence of the unsuitability of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards to hold that position, or any other elective officer above that of dogcatcher, recent comments by him against legislation to protect children, parents, and teachers reflect changing political circumstances that have accelerated the erosion of his rapidly-waning power, to the state’s benefit.

His remarks referred in part to HB 648 by Republican state Rep. Gabe Firment, which would prohibit surgery or chemicals to alter the sex of a minor; HB 466 by GOP state Rep. Dodie Horton that would ban classroom or extracurricular expressions extraneous to educating students that focus on sexual activity and gives parents control over the names and pronouns that refer to their children; and HB 81 by Republican state Rep. Raymond Crews that basically duplicates the regulation of naming conventions in Horton’s bill. All have passed the House.

That’s in marked contrast to last year, when Firment offered a similar bill that never received a committee hearing and Horton had the same minus the naming regime that had to be forced out of committee in a parliamentary move rarely seen, although it advanced no further. The naming controversy in the past year has become increasingly visible over revelations that some schools intentionally keep parents in the dark about their efforts to encourage children to identify differently than their biological sex (no Louisiana schools have been reported to do this).


Senate threatens fiscally conservative bills

Louisiana’s Republican voters need to have an intervention with some of their party’s state senators over their grasshopper free-spending preferences, a task with which their party’s state representatives can assist.

Earlier this month, the House delivered a general appropriations bill to the Senate that recognized the state’s spending cap and sensibly prepared for a future of reduced revenues. The false economy produced by catastrophically-high debt spending from Democrat-controlled Washington (now starting to punish the American people with historically high inflation, negative relative wage growth, and lower workforce participation with a double-dip recession in the offing) artificially inflated state tax collections, with a threat ahead in about two years when the sales tax increase of 2016, modified in 2018, will roll off the books. This means the state, starting in fiscal year 2024, will see a retrenchment in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

The House version of HB 1 wisely adhered to the state’s expenditure limit that filters out the false economy, meaning that forecast surpluses for this and presumably next fiscal years can’t in total be spent in FY 2024 without a supermajority in both legislative chambers to override. Instead, the plan increased paying down more of constitutionally-mandated reductions in pension liabilities, which in turn frees up future dollars for state and local governments, particularly school districts.


Port fends off bill to clip its override power

Having potentially grifted future Bossier City water customers, the Port of Caddo-Bossier might start putting things people don’t want next to their backyards – with local governments powerless to stop that.

The now-notorious Oct. 17, 2022 meeting of the Port Commission produced Resolution #19 that enticed Bossier City to give it enough money to build a water distribution facility. If the city in future years decides to use even one drop from that, city ratepayers will be on the hook for as much as an estimated $62 million with no asset in return.

But another vote taken then may lead to an even more profound impact on the entirety of Bossier Parish, and Caddo as well. Resolution #20 ratified a complicated arrangement that will deprive some local government entities of tax dollars they otherwise would collect as well as points to the possibility that decisions like this could override local land use regulations.


Schexnayder political fortunes clearly waning

Events over the past couple of weeks signal trouble ahead for Louisiana House of Representatives Republican Speaker Clay Schexnayder.

Term-limited, Schexnayder spent months expressing interest in various statewide offices to continue his political career. Finally, after current Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin surprisingly announced he would desist from reelection, Schexnayder threw in his lot for that post.

That pits him against former SOS candidate and current Republican Public Service Commissioner Mike Francis, who carries a hefty war chest and extensive connections with state Republicans from his past party service including a stint as chairman. Grocery chain owner Brandon Trosclair also stands in his way.