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Support Jindal tax swap to give Saints chance to win more

Even with sympathetic Republicans commanding majorities in the Louisiana Legislature, Gov. Bobby Jindal still will have to pick up about a dozen Democrats in the House and at least a couple more in the Senate in order to get his income tax elimination/sales tax increase swap passed. And here’s the wedge issue to pick off enough votes: the Saints and soon-to-become Pelicans have better chances to be better teams with the swap.

By jacking its top income tax rate up to 13.3 percent, California effectively took an issue simmering in the background for professional athletes and put it into crisis mode. With its large population and conducive weather, the state disproportionately attracts athletes at the highest, and therefore most lucrative, levels of sport to call it home, either because teams are based there or because they participate in individual sports and they can choose where to live.

But, in statements the ideological content of which give lie his nickname, very successful golfer Phil “Lefty” Mickelson noted recently as a result of the hike he needed to evaluate whether he should continue to live in California. Fellow top linkster Eldrick “Tiger” Woods spent three years at Stanford and showed long ago he was no dummy: he quit the state years ago for income-tax-free Florida in part because of once-Golden State’s high rate even then.


Zoning fight requires political, not judicial, resolution

An interesting sideshow has developed where semi-perennial political candidate Steve Myers, whose livelihood involves brokering and renting houses in Baton Rouge, has challenged the ability of the local planning authority to prevent multi-family residences in single dwellings in certain parts of town. Even if there is a certain deprivation of property rights inherent to the idea, it’s a battle he’s unlikely to win.

Myers, who most recently ran and finished dismally in the 2012 mayor-president’s election, argues that the city-parish’s unified code is unconstitutional because it prohibits people unrelated to each other by birth, marriage, or legally (specified as through adoption) in one dwelling, excepting the provision mandated in the federal Fair Housing Act that allows this for up to four additional unrelated individuals if one is the owner. The city-parish has sued him at least three times for violations, and he counter-sued with this claim.

He asserts that the zoning law violated the Act and suggested that “family” be redefined to include people unrelated by birth, marriage, or legally. But while the Act says “family includes a single individual,” it defines it in no other way and does not speak to any other comprehensive definition. Further, it does not define as discrimination choices to rent on the basis of “family.”


Good budget reform attempt emerges, but with fatal flaw

We can stop holding our collective breath in anticipation as a result of the Pythian pronouncement by state Rep. Brett Geymann on behalf of the Louisiana Budget Reform Coalition that they have seen the future of budgeting in state government. While it’s high on drama and low on substance, it’s better than nothing – in which lies perhaps its fatal flaw.
Geymann, who went into legislative cloister to summon the final product, announced the vision as a series of bills ready for pre-filing for the legislative session. The package includes a constitutional amendment to explicate in the budget produced by the governor items funded in the general fund using both discretionary and non-discretionary dollars under times of assumed reductions in spending on health care or higher education, separating them into two bills; expanding the function of the Revenue Estimating Conference to declare all funding sources as recurring or nonrecurring instead of only when surpluses are declared and then prohibit the use of nonrecurring funds for operating expenses; and increasing time for legislator review of the budget including a provision that gives each chamber time to review the others work and that the budget be passed no later than 16 days prior to the end of the session.

While at first glance these might appear impressive, in fact with one exception they comprise very little that must change substantially or substantively. Starting with the multiple operating budget bill, the capacity presently exists to produce a budget bill with monies for every single line item apportioned out by discretionary status. It’s done already in aggregate form in the budget documents presented to the Legislature, which breaks down this money in broad categories. The only difference in presentation would be doing this separating on a line item basis.


Data grows confirming wisdom of LA Obamacare opt-out

As the federal government continues to delay the deadline for states to choose whether to participate in health care exchanges and waits on states to decide whether expand Medicaid coverage in order to entice more states to accept these things, Louisiana continues to look wise in not wavering from its decision to pursue neither.

The refusal to set up exchanges is a no-brainer. The federal government’s decision to impose a 3.5 percent surcharge on coverage sold through the exchanges indicates that states would expect similar costs to them that will go only higher in time. One ballpark estimate puts the per enrollee cost at $97, but Maryland’s looks to come in at over $200, and the federal government will pay for these costs only through 2015. With the probability that the whole unworkable law will unravel in the future, why should Louisiana commit itself now to extra costs requiring extra revenue when state exchanges hardly can deviate from regulations that would run federal exchanges anyway?

While some quarters complain about the expansion rejection aspect, which has no legal deadline for acceptance, the wisdom expressed by the likes of Gov. Bobby Jindal and Rep. Bill Cassidy for rejection continues unchallenged and, if anything, grows more compelling as time passes. The law allows premium support for non-disabled adults, such as single earner of income between $11,200 and $15,400 annually, through the exchanges. But for those individuals below that figure states would have to follow the fee-for-service model if they accept the expansion, which is paid for entirely by the federal government for the first three years but then tapers to 90 percent.


Unreformed LA legal code over-regulates, over-prosecutes

Louisiana has held itself out as the “Sportsman’s Paradise,” but, according to a new report, it sure has some strange jurisprudence to make this claim.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation reported that the Gulf Coast states generally had legal codes and a large number of laws that criminalized behaviors regarding environmental matters that would discourage outdoor pursuits such as hunting and fishing, or economic activity involving natural resources. In aggregate, Louisiana perhaps was the worst off, with several examples noted about what in an objective way should not be criminal behavior or, if boorish enough, should merit a minor penalty, yet is defined criminally with potential severe consequences.

Louisiana’s legal system creates these crimes with wildly disproportionate penalties that defy common sense, hence making it too easy for unwitting violation, for two reasons. First, the way many of the statutes are written, given that it does not presume that criminal intent in an action is lacking unless some is evidenced, exposes even the least negligent accused to the most strict penalties. By not having a “rule of lenity” that assumes, given no evidence of criminal intent that there was none, the lowest degree of negligence (which is typical when it comes to non-regulatory criminal actions), this puts great pressure on the accused not even to go to trial and accept a more lenient, but still disproportional, punishment.