Capitol Access

Weekdays at the bottom of the hour during Morning Edition

Your on-ramp for news and insight from Louisiana's statehouse.

Follow Capitol Access on Twitter @LaCapAxS.

 

A bill to increase a tax credit program by $47-million dollars found favor with the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday. Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger’s HB 70 would double Louisiana’s current Earned Income Tax Credit.

“This allows about 30-percent of the state of Louisiana to keep more of their earned money,” Leger told the committee.

There were the kind of arguments for the bill that you’d expect.

“I see this bill as a response to consistent criticism that I hear – in this building and in the community at large – about people ‘getting something for nothing’,” Leger explained. “This program is one that rewards people for working.”

Louisiana’s Senate worked Monday, forgoing the holiday barbeque. The Senate Finance Committee did do some grilling however, as Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols gave them a rundown of HB 1, as approved by the House.

“They did include $31.1 million for LSU Medical School in Shreveport,” Nichols said of the House “priority list” – a wish list if more revenue is found.

We Remember

May 25, 2015

Louisiana remembers, and honors service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice on this Memorial Day.

The state’s full House of Representatives, with help from the Marine Corps Band, held a “Ceremony of Remembrance” before breaking for the long holiday weekend.

New Orleans Rep. Nick LoRusso, who also serves as a Lt. Col. with the Army’s Judge Advocate General Office, served as host, “To honor all of our fallen dead.”

Sue Lincoln

When the Revenue Estimating Conference met last Thursday, they only found an additional $79-million to help with the FY 2016 budget shortfall.

“We still have a long way to go,” House Speaker Chuck Kleckley declared.

Senate President John Alario was marginally more optimistic.

“We’re getting closer, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” was Alario’s pronouncement.

With 24 days left in the session, I asked Kleckley and Alario to gaze into the crystal ball and make a few predictions about the budget.

“I think we can probably answer that better after we get it off the House floor,” Kleckley said, referring to the budget bill — HB 1, which will be debated by the full House on Thursday.

A bill prohibiting abortions based on the baby's sex was approved by Louisiana's full House Thursday. The bill's author, Houma Rep. Lenar Whitney explained why she brought the bill.

"The practice of sex-selection abortion has made its way from the Asian nations to inside our borders here in the United States," Whitney said.

Whitney said those cultures prefer boys over girls, and this is about protecting mothers and their potential daughters. "In high Asian immigrant populations, many of these women were coerced into abortions and threatened by divorce and violence if they did not bear sons."

Did you know a piece of paper could kill? Natchitoches Rep. Kenny Cox found that out Wednesday, when the fiscal note for his HB 590 was delivered just a few minutes before its hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee.

Cox’s bill would require industrial plants to install air quality monitors along their fence lines.

“This bill is about safety: safety for the people who live along the fence lines,” Cox said in explanation of the proposed law.

Before too much testimony on the bill was given, Houma Rep. Joe Harrison advised Cox that the estimated state cost for implementing the bill – the fiscal note – was going to be the real issue.

Louisiana’s Senate approved a bill requiring private businesses to provide equal pay for equal work, and setting up a mechanism for enforcement.

“This bill is important to our wives, our mothers, and our daughters. But it’s equally important to our fathers and sons,” said New Orleans Senator J. P. Morrell. “The message we’re sending to people around this state is that we believe that people should be paid equal pay for equal work.”

The debate over Senator Edwin Murray’s SB 219 was fierce, with the business lobby pushing lawmakers to vote no.

“All we’re doing with this bill is we are putting one more little nail in the coffin of businesses across the state,” said Senator Jack Donahue.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the budget bill – HB 1 – Monday. But first, members exhibited their expertise in using the news for clues which couch cushions to look under for loose change.

Houma Rep. Joe Harrison snagged some Racing Commission money for the Board of Regents, which he discovered in a recent report from the Legislative Auditor.

“The Racing Commission, since the inception of ‘gaming’, was supposed to be giving a percentage of its money, its budget, to Regents,” Harrison told the committee. “So we can only go back five years, but that amounts to $2.8 million.”

Covington Rep. John Schroder found some spare change for disabilities programs by looking in the Department of Economic Development.

For the first time in months, LSU System President F. King Alexander was able to relax a bit over the weekend.

“I spent it with our daughter, at her soccer tournament Saturday and Sunday.”

Last Thursday, Louisiana’s full House passed some revenue raising bills, alleviating some of Alexander’s worry that no solution to the $1.6 billion budget deficit – and the crippling cuts looming over higher education – would be found. Today, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to add that additional funding into the budget bill, with the bulk going toward higher education.

Alexander says the situation appears brighter than before, but, “We’ve got a long ways to go. We’re not there yet.”

Just a Trim, Please

May 8, 2015

The House didn’t go for a complete makeover of Louisiana’s tax base Thursday. Instead they just trimmed off some split ends.

“We’ve got a lot of tough votes ahead of us. We’ve got a lot of difficult votes ahead of us. It’s going to be an interesting day,” Speaker Chuck Kleckley said, in his pep talk before the full House began grappling with bills for raising state revenues Thursday.

He urged members to leave partisan politics behind.

“It’s my hope that we check our parties at the door.”

Ways and Means chairman Joel Robideaux urged members to tune out special interests, who were pushing their own agenda despite the bigger budget crisis.

Pages