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Slidell begging law can survive court challenge

It’s back to the drawing board for Slidell and its anti-panhandling ordinance, as both flaws in a decision negating the measure and in the city’s procedures for enforcing it allow for a retooling and a retry into its becoming constitutional.

Earlier this week Eastern District of Louisiana Court Judge Lance Africk sided with the American Civil Liberties Union challenge to the law. It requires those wishing to engage in begging to obtain a temporary, free license good for 72 hours, during which time the city can perform a background check on the applicant, and unless certain information comes to light such as a felony conviction in the prior two decades, the city must award the permit that includes an identification badge of the individual worn during expression in public.

Africk’s ruling argued that the ordinance would not be content-neutral since it treated begging differentially than other forms of expression, and that Slidell could not hurdle the high burden of proof necessary to justify its regulation. In particular, he noted that similar forms of speech the city regulated for interests of public safety, peddling and solicitation, had less onerous registration requirements, and even an exception to any registration for the latter if it involved political and religious views. Thus, given the number of complaints about and declining number of arrests for panhandling over the past couple of years, Africk asserts this does not present compelling enough evidence that the Slidell approach addresses a public safety problem.


Tax increase small part of cliff solution, if needed

So, the Louisiana Legislature is out of session – any kind – and thus it cannot threaten to take more of what we earn. That won’t last.

With a modicum of tax increases – and also factoring in a second straight year of paying June Medicaid bills in July, hence pushing these into the next fiscal year not covered in the budget about to launch – that means from current spending levels the state faces a deficit of around $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2019, as a number of temporary taxes roll off after June, 2018. Use of tax increases to deal with this would require a special session as regular sessions in even-numbered years can’t process tax increases.

That makes such an extra session inevitable, for Democrats from Gov. John Bel Edwards all the way down to the party’s legislators stubbornly refuse to consider tax reform, that might alleviate the mismatch of money to priorities that makes fewer funds available than could be for genuine needs, as something independent from tax increases. Further, concerning the increased taxation they doggedly insist the citizenry must suffer, they dictate this must come on income and progressively.


New law may nail shut Elio Motors' coffin

If Republican state Rep. Thomas Carmody didn’t plan on nailing shut Elio Motors’ coffin, he could have fooled Caddo Parish.

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards recently signed SB 107 by GOP state Sen. Bodi White that unambiguously would prohibit bulk sales of motor vehicles in Louisiana without a dealer’s license. State law promulgates a long list of qualifications necessary, such as one has a fixed location with adequate space, that the dealership has a positive effect on the economic well-being of the state, and specifies what it sells. However, statute created an exception to a violation of direct sales for “operating a dealership” without defining “dealership.” SB 107 changed the language to grant an exception only to “an existing, licensed, and franchised motor vehicle dealership.”

The Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association stumped for the amendment to the bill to facilitate these changes, trying to fight the tide of deregulation in car sales that continues to spread. The extra costs forced upon them through regulation that they must pass on to consumers puts them at a competitive disadvantage to the direct sales model that more and more states have legalized. Having government protect them by disallowing such sales only can stave off this threat to shrink the impact of their business model.


Legislators correctly sidelined pair of bad bills

You win some and you don’t lose some describes the fate of a couple of meaningful bad bills from the Louisiana Legislature’s 2017 regular session.

Much discussion that session revolved around an unnecessary hike in the gasoline tax, which eventually went nowhere. Motorists didn’t need such a measure because over the past two years the state already proved that by boosting such spending by tens of millions of dollars.

That happened as it stopped diverting money paying for state police operations, which constitutionally allows up to 20 percent of gas taxes to go towards that function. The same can happen for sloughing off money to local government and subsidizing roads and facility operations for which users can pay, to use instead for roads work that benefits the state as a whole.