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.

This is “Sunshine Week”, with media organizations and civic groups across the nation working to educate the public on governmental access.

Here in Louisiana, the House Appropriations Committee starts working through the proposed budget this morning, yet the budget bill, HB 1, didn’t appear on the legislative website till 4 p.m. yesterday. Meanwhile, the Associated Press asked state agencies for public records regarding worst-case scenarios for the $1.6-billion budget shortfall. AP was told no.

One reason? “Deliberative process.”

“That ‘deliberative process’, which applies only to the governor and only to his office, has been widely used by all the other state agencies,” says The Advocate’s Capitol Bureau chief, Mark Ballard.

Have you noticed you don’t see “inventory reduction” sales regularly, like you used to? That’s because of Louisiana’s business inventory tax credit, put in place in the 1990s.

“It certainly has been no reason for companies to deplete their inventories at the end of the year,” state Sen. Robert Adley observes.

Businesses still do count their inventory, and pay local taxes on their stock on hand. But when they file their corporate income tax returns with the state, Louisiana reimburses the companies for every penny they paid in inventory tax—even if the amount exceeds the other state taxes the business owes.

Should Louisiana repeal its 20-year-old severance tax exemption for horizontal wells? LSU economist Jim Richardson believes the time for that particular economic incentive has passed.

“In 1994, nobody knew how to do horizontal drilling. Today, everybody knows how to do horizontal drilling,” Richardson says of the tax break implemented to encourage what was then a new technology.

Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association president Chris John says the severance tax exemption for fracking wells keeps Louisiana in the shale production game.

At the state capitol, it seems like everybody is talking about Grover.

No, not Sesame Street’s Grover. They’re talking about Grover Norquist, the Washington, D.C. lobbyist and founder of ATR — Americans for Tax Reform.

State Sen. Robert Adley is not a fan.

“That ATR bunch we’re havin’ to live with? I just found out who they are,” Adley announced at a recent meeting.

Anticipating the coming fiscal year’s massive shortfall, Louisiana’s legislature commissioned a comprehensive analysis of the state’s entire tax structure. That report was delivered Tuesday.

“Do we have the right tax structure for 2015 and on?” LSU economist Jim Richardson said was the main question being considered. “It’s a tax structure we put in place in 1973.”


Some of the renovations going on at the Capitol are obvious, as chain-link fencing and mounds of dirt block access and parking. For others, you have to look up — way up.

From the floor of the House chamber, turn back toward the balcony. There, on a scaffold, stands George Stuart. He’s painting the ceiling.

“This is a touch-up,” he explains. “We had water damage and the paint started peeling. Whole sections had to be re-plastered.”

Louisiana’s budget problems have many criticizing the tax incentives for the entertainment industry, which cost the state about $250-million last year. A legislative task force has been looking into ways to curb fraud in the film program. They met last week, to discuss the thrust of bills they may file in the upcoming legislative session.

“These are various common-sense measures that we think can be taken to perhaps make it a little bit less easy to steal from these programs,” Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street said, as he prepared to give the panel suggestions based on his experiences investigating problems with the programs.

“My child is crying and beating his head on the table at night, when we address homework,” Desoto Parish parent Karen Jenkins told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Thursday.

“My grandchildren started vomitin’ at school,” Caddo Parish grandmother Pat Dyson said.

Both were trying to persuade BESE to make allowances for opting out of the upcoming PARCC testing, because they believe Common Core is doing more harm than good.


Addressing the House and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler sent out an S-O-S on the condition of the state’s stock of voting machines.

“I just will tell you that it’s getting a little scary out there,” Schedler said, reminding lawmakers, “Voting machine equipment is all 15-20 years, plus.”

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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