House committees took up two big ticket items Monday: budget reform and tobacco taxes. Bills that would makeover the process of building the state’s budget passed favorably in the House Appropriations committee. A packed Ways and Means committee did not vote on tobacco taxes; representatives deferred their bills.
Louisiana House Speaker Chuck Kleckley last week called on the legislature to restore funding to the state program that provides breast and cervical cancer screenings to uninsured and underserved women, and Sen. Karen Carter Peterson chaired a committee focused on funding for women’s services.
Women testified about holes in funding for domestic violence shelters, pregnancy care, cancer screenings, and sexual health. Peterson called Governor Jindal’s budget proposal for next year irresponsible. According to Beth Meeks, from the Louisiana Coalition on Domestic Violence, the governor’s slashing of women’s services just doesn’t make fiscal sense.
Parents that live from Inniswold to Shenndoah testified that they just want to make schools safer and more academically successful for their children, like Norman Browning, president of the pro-breakaway group ‘Local Schools for Local Children.’
State lawmakers are being more sensitive to how they spend money.
A bill containing minor change to the state’s Enterprise Zone program failed to pass in the House Thursday.
The Enterprise Zone is an incentive program that works to encourage businesses to expand in rural parts of the state. The bill would have changed the definition of a “multifamily residential housing”, making bigger apartment complexes eligible for a tax credit.
One bill seeks to circumvent federal restrictions on semi-automatic firearms, despite several members questioning how it would stand up to the Supremacy Clause, which establishes federal law as the law of the land.
Representative Katrina Jackson leads the caucus. She says under her plan, the funds from raising the tobacco tax would be dedicated. “It starts making the areas of higher education systems whole, and the area of health care as well,” Jackson said.
Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Joel Robideaux, said he’d spoken with constituents, House leadership, and policy analysts. There’s little support for bills that repeal the income tax without making up the revenue. “As a result of my conversations and review of the analysis," Robideaux said, "I would prefer if we indefinitely shelve bills to repeal the income tax. It’s a difficult, but I believe necessary measure.”
Legislative approval is not required for LSU to lease its hospitals, that’s according to an opinion issued Thursday by State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. A law passed in 1997 gave governance of hospitals to LSU, and a 2003 amendment didn’t include leases on the list of things LSU has to go to the Capitol for – so Caldwell ruled leasing “intentionally omitted.”
Lawmakers have put the final nail in the coffin to close LSU’s public hospital in North Baton Rouge. In Wednesday’s Joint Budget Committee, the Baton Rouge delegation pointed to gaps in care for pregnant women, prisoners and mental health services.
Sen. Sharon Broome said she was appalled that the decades-old initiative to revamp facilities at Earl K Long morphed into moving services. “And we tried our best to get a new facility," Broome said. "Administrations change, goals change. I understand that. But I am very concerned when goals change and people are not considered.”