state legislature

A bill to prohibit payroll deductions for union dues prompted hours of impassioned testimony Thursday.

“Teachers, firemen, police — these are the people you trust every day to take care of everything in our communities. But you insult us by telling us we’re not smart enough to know if we want things taken out of our paycheck,” said an angry Melody Munch, president of the Jefferson Parish Federation of Teachers.

This was the fourth annual try for the so-called “Paycheck Protection Act”, pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

“It’s being advanced by the same folks everywhere, because it’s template legislation,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers president Steve Monaghan noted during his testimony against the bill.”

LABI president Stephen Waguespack said this is about drawing a bright line between political organizations and public employees.

Compassion and Cannabis

Apr 30, 2015

A bill that would set up rules and the system for dispensing medical marijuana advanced out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday. Although law enforcement opposition has derailed similar bills in previous sessions, the difference with Fred Mills’ SB 143 was the support of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

“The move that our sheriffs made was to be compassionate; was to do things to provide relief,” Sheriffs’ Association director Mike Renatza testified, “And to hopefully not harm anyone.”

Renatza said each sheriff examined his own conscience, and asked themselves, “What would you do? What would you do for your son? What would you do for your daughter?”

Tuesday’s House Ways and Means hearing on bills to cap the film tax credit program brought out some of the big names in Louisiana movie-making, like Lampton Enochs of the Oscar-winning Moonbot Studios, and former Dukes of Hazzard star, John Schneider.

“I have not won an Academy Award, but I’ve seen several films that have,” Schneider said, eliciting laughter from committee members and the packed audience in attendance.

But charmed as lawmakers were by the big names, it was Louisiana residents working in the movie industry who made the biggest impression. Dozens spoke against Alexandria Rep. Lance Harris’s bill that would scale the credits down to zero over the next five years.

The House Ways and Means Committee started working through several revenue-raising bills Monday, including one that would increase the cigarette tax.

There was the expected health related testimony.

“In Louisiana, more than 22 percent of adults and 12 percent of youth smoke cigarettes — the only product that, when used as directed, will kill half of all its users,” said Dr. Michael Johnson, director of Louisiana Tobacco-Free Living.

“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” The naval adage, quoted in Wouk’s 1951 “The Caine Mutiny” and again in Heinlein’s 1973 “Time Enough for Love”, pretty well describes the current status of both the state budget and legislative action.


The House Appropriations Committee has advanced a bill that would keep highway dollars committed to road work by limiting how much can be shifted to State Police.

“Throughout this state, the common theme is that the legislators have raided the Transportation Trust Fund for other needs,” said New Iberia Rep. Terry Landry, in explaining reasons for authoring HB 208.

The 2015 legislative session convenes today, with just 60 days to solve a one-point-six billion dollar budget deficit. Has it ever been this bad?

“We’ve gone through this a couple of other times; the Arab oil embargo in the early 80s, and then also in the middle 90s when Roemer was governor,” House Clerk Butch Speer recalls. “We had those two crises, and they were actually worse than this one. Certainly in the middle 90s we were over a billion dollars short. We’re a billion and a half now, but the budget is 6, 8 times as large now.”

Taming TOPS

Apr 2, 2015

It happens every session: lawmakers, seeing the quarter of a billion dollar price tag on TOPS, look for ways to tweak the college scholarship program. This time, they might succeed.

“By establishing a ‘baseline’ tuition, future tuition increases will not be reflected in the state budget,” says Senate Finance committee chairman Jack Donahue, who is the author of Senate Bill 48. “This will allow the legislature to do a better job predicting the overall cost.

The House Appropriations Committee has begun the process of combing through the governor’s budget proposal, and got some rather unpleasant news from Secretary of State Tom Schedler.

“I have no money for elections past the fall statewide elections,” Schedler said of the allocations in the 2016 budget plan. “And the most affected election would be the presidential preference primary in the spring. I have no funding for it.”

The deadline for pre-filing bills for the 2016 legislative session is just 30 days away. But where does the track for a bill actually start?

Louisiana House Clerk Alfred “Butch” Speer says the process starts with a member’s idea, which is then brought to one of the 80 people who work in the House Legislative Service Division.

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