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LA Senate tax hike try may hang GOP out to dry

A late session sleight-of-hand stupidly supported by some of the Louisiana Senate’s most conservative members may provide the first test for the House of Representatives’ new Conservative Legislative Caucus.

At the start of Wednesday, HB 514 by Republican state Rep. Tanner Magee applied sales tax to medical marijuana. But when it hit the floor that afternoon, Magee allowed its hijacking by amendment to make permanent the sales tax hike instituted first in 2016 and supposed to expire over two years later, but which in part got extended to 2025. Over the next three years its avails gradually would be diverted to roads construction until by the time it would have expired the entirety would go to that object. It also delays giving back the entirety of a tax on manufacturer use of utilities.

The bill lists several projects that would receive priority, which have appeared as distinct line items in several bills this session, to where three-quarters of the avails should go until these reach completion. This larding of pork appeared to appease several senators, particularly GOP state Sen. Barrow Peacock who was mentioned as a collaborator on the radical change and whose SB 1, stalled in the Senate, would take a much more reasonable approach of diverting the tax increase for roads but with it expiring as intended.


LA Supreme Court expansion wasteful, useless

No constitutional or legal reason exists to justify the waste of taxpayer dollars on the altar of increased employment of elected officials by expanding the size of Louisiana’s Supreme Court.

SB 163 by Republican Sen. Patrick McMath would amend the Constitution, in a vote next year, to increase the size of the state’s Supreme Court from seven to nine members, provide for decennial reapportionment, and create roughly equiproportional districts in population. Changing the size would be comparatively the least radical of the bunch, recent history reveals.

Louisiana hasn’t reapportioned any judicial districts in over two decades. The last time that happened, it came as a consequence of the unwieldy Chisom v. Roemer consent decree, the 1992 case that the resolution of which committed the state to draw a judicial district explicitly on racial lines to produce a majority-black district in the hopes it would elect a black justice. Before the 1997 law that did so, the last redistricting came as a consequence of the new 1974 Constitution. And since then, the Legislature passed on doing so both after 2000 (sticking with the 1997 lines used) and 2010 (despite both House and Senate pledges to do so).


Conservative bloc needs to usher out Schexnayder

For the good of Louisiana, House of Representatives conservative Republicans need to have an intervention with GOP Speaker Clay Schexnayder.

Last week, Schexnayder forced out Education Committee Chairman Ray Garofalo for backing a bill Republicans have passed out of legislative chambers in several states. The bill would prohibit unchallenged instruction or training that deliberately demeans students or trainees on the basis of their immutable characteristics or political views – often protecting racist behavior disguised as anti-racism.

He did this by failing to support Garofalo’s ability to function as committee chairman after complaints from the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, who manufactured outrage by blowing way out of proportion an offhand remark to allege Garofalo’s unfitness to lead. The LLBC has unusual leverage over Schexnayder because he won the speakership with only minority GOP representative support, with the plurality of that support coming from the LLBC, and a threat to withdraw that support means Schexnayder likely would lose his spot and full-time job with its salary.


Preserve fiscal bonus to pay looming LA debts

So, you get handed around nearly $700 million and are told you can spend almost half of it on anything over the next year starting Jul. 1, and the rest you can spend now on capital items and/or defeasance of various obligations. Louisiana has encountered such a bonus, and must act wisely with it to avoid future fiscal catastophe, which runs against type.

Last week’s Revenue Estimating Conference meeting approved fiscal forecasts of a $357 million surplus for this fiscal year and of $320 million for the next. The lagniappe came from better-than-expected, even if relatively weak, revenue collection from very conservative past estimation taking into account the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

The Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration wants to speak for the sums, but at least doesn’t want to fritter away all of it. As the larger amount can’t go towards recurring items, it recommends adding it to $45 million already apportioned by the House to make an initial $400 million payment on a hurricane and flood protection rebuild and enhancement in the southeastern part of the state. In the aftermath of the hurricane disasters of 2005, the state pledged to pay for 35 percent of the cost of repairing this system that would be interest-free for another year if making a payment of that amount by the end of September.


Local bills to create more responsive govts

Citizens on both sides of the Red River appear on the way to bringing more responsive government, despite opponents to that using misdirection in failed attempts to date to derail legislation.

HB 630 by Republican state Rep. Dodie Horton uncontroversially would update state statutes from the 1950s regarding the Cypress Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District. Much more controversially, it would create a process to remove members of the agency’s governing commission, appointed for five-year terms by local Bossier governments, with the governing authorities of four being directly elected and the other filled with gubernatorial appointees. At present, no removal procedures exist beyond the constitutional impeachment provision, which limits that to malfeasance or gross misconduct.

It also changes filling a vacancy from the remaining commissioners to the appointer. And, it allows commissioners to have one of their own removed for specific causes listed.