WRKF News

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.

Ten years ago, Louisiana’s Public Health lab – where the state Dept. of Health and Hospitals tests for things like disease outbreaks and water safety – was in downtown New Orleans. It was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina and had been operating out of temporary facilities until a new lab opened just recently in Baton Rouge.


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.”

Tax Credit Cap Makes Film Industry Advocate Smile

May 8, 2015

The state House spent most of the day Thursday debating a long list of tax increases and reductions to tax breaks. Lawmakers are trying to figure out how to get or keep more money in the treasury to help out higher education and healthcare in next year’s budget. But that’s got higher ed and healthcare pitted against industry.

Sherri McConnell is a consultant now and ran the tax incentives program for the entertainment industry for years within the Louisiana Economic Development department, so she’s been watching some pieces of this puzzle very closely.

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.

What risky behaviors do Louisiana’s teen engage in—texting while driving, drinking alcohol, having unprotected sex? Each year the Centers for Disease Control conducts a Youth Risk Behaviors survey, but Louisiana’s kids don’t get asked the questions concerning sex.

“This is an effort to collect basic data to make sure kids know basic things about their body,” Senator J.P. Morrell said, regarding his bill to allow Orleans Parish students to participate in the complete national survey. Morrell’s SB 31 was heard by the full Senate Wednesday afternoon.

“We haven’t seen the survey,” protested Slidell Senator A.G. Crowe.

Louisiana’s $1.6-billion budget hole is doing nothing to help with the state’s $14-billion backlog of road and bridge projects.

“We kicked the can down the road, but we lost it in a pothole. And we can’t get the can out,” says House Transportation chair Karen St. Germain.

So she offered two tax-raising measures to solve the problem. One, HB 778, increases the state’s sales tax by a penny. The other, HB 777, ups the tax on fuel, gasoline and diesel, by ten cents per gallon.

“This is not, and should not be a partisan issue, Rep. John Bel Edwards said last Thursday.

When it comes to Medicaid expansion, want to bet? The same concept with the same arguments supporting it was heard from a different author in a different committee Monday, and got a very different reception.

Republican House Speaker Chuck Kleckley’s resolution sailed through House Appropriations yesterday, while Democratic Rep. John Bel Edwards’ resolution failed to pass out of House Health and Welfare last Thursday.

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