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Powell provides legislative heroism in 2006 session

A number of disappointing events routinely occur doing a legislative session (here’s a good list of them), but from this milieu legislative heroes emerge. Perhaps the 2006 session’s most prominent example is state Rep. Mike Powell.

Yesterday, even though a majority of their members voted for the bill, Legislative Republicans now have formally requested that Gov. Kathleen Blanco veto HB 1028. The bill gives legislators of certain length of service, part-timers, a full-time employee group benefit, a minimum of 75 percent of premiums paid for by Louisiana taxpayers.

As noted yesterday, there’s no logic or rationale to justify this perk. Despite defending it as late as yesterday morning, Republican leaders now claim the bill was “hastily” considered and formally request that Blanco veto the bill (basically admitting they don’t read and/or understand the bills they handle, which is what they get paid for). But Powell was on this during the House debate, sounding the alarm. However, only a minority of his GOP colleagues followed his lead with their votes, while almost all Democrats there supported this self-serving measure.

And this wasn’t the only occasion on which Powell bucked the prevailing trend of the Legislature on a bill now raising concern. On the final morning of the session, with HB 1281 on the floor Powell was the only legislator to speak against it, pointing out that the state through tax policy was now putting itself into the business of subsidizing all sorts of public and private ventures – golf courses, lakefront development – using taxpayer dollars not through the marketplace, but by political fiat. He almost succeeded in getting enough votes to turn this down.

Powell also aided the state proactively. He saved more tax dollars by getting the state to eliminate the January election date for local elections despite insipid, inaccurate opposition in HB 604 (now sent to Blanco, who vetoed a similar measure by him last year). His HB 669, also facing squealing, silly opposition, which would have governments with ballot measures promoting a tax put a summary of its tax effects on the ballot, also has headed to the governor even though it was at first defeated in the House.

While we may have a bunch of legislators who aren’t doing their jobs getting $1,400 a month and $115 per diem, we definitely got our money’s worth out of Powell this session.

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