Bayou Country Superfest tax rebate advances

An effort to ensure that Bayou Country Superfest keeps returning to LSU’s Tiger Stadium cleared a state Senate committee Monday.

Senate Bill 475 by state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, would create a state and local sales tax rebate for events held in certain public facilities.

Tax rebates refund money or lower tax obligations.

The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs voted without objection to advance the legislation to the full Senate.

The bill’s backers said the legislation is aimed at Bayou Country Superfest, which is scheduled to be held over the Memorial Day weekend of May 26 and 27.

Past concerts have drawn Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and the Zac Brown Band as well as thousands of fans.

John Carpenter, chief administrative officer for Mayor-President Kip Holden, said allowing a rebate for ticket sales and parking charges would create an incentive for the producer to stage a high quality show.

To qualify for the rebate, average attendance would have to be at least 25,000.

Tickets to next month’s event range from $50 to $250 per day.

Carpenter said other states are trying to lure the concert away from Baton Rouge.

“I don’t want to lose this to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or Gainesville, Florida,” said Paul Arrigo, president of the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates the rebate would result in an annual loss of $675,000 in state and local government revenue.

State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, suggested a simpler route would be to not collect the tax.

“These rebate bills are coming at us one after another,” he complained.

Carpenter said a tax credit or exemption would be ideal. Unfortunately, he said, state constitutional restrictions prohibit such a proposal this year.

Adley said that was his point. He said rebates are being used to get around constitutional restrictions.

The constitutional prohibitions put new taxes off the table as well as tax exemptions, exclusions, deductions and credits.

The constitution is silent on rebates.

Carpenter said the rebate is necessary because the city-parish is trying to secure a long-time commitment from the promoter. He said there is a risk of the concert going to Houston, Texas.

State Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, interjected that the state only would lose $300,000 a year in tax revenue.

“This is certainly an economic engine,” she said of the concert.

Dorsey-Colomb said the revenue loss is a small significant amount of money in the scope of things for a concert that is watched by soldiers overseas.

“If you don’t like rebates, this is not the one you shouldn’t like,” she said.

State Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, wanted one assurance.

“Is Kip going to keep wearing his cowboy hat if we pass this?” he asked, referring to the mayor.

Dorsey-Colomb assured him that Holden would wear his western gear.

 

School bus drivers would lose protection

Future school bus drivers would be ineligible for tenure under a bill that won easy approval Monday morning in the Louisiana House Education Committee.

The measure, House Bill 293, next faces action on the House floor.

It passed the committee 9-3 after a brief discussion.

State Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville and sponsor of the bill, said local, state and federal employment laws prevent the need for school bus drivers to have tenure, which is a form of job protection.

Harrison said the Terrebonne Parish school system recently spent $14,000 on a lengthy tenure dispute involving a school bus driver.

“This is a bill that can eliminate a lot of the problems that we have with the internal workings of the school system,” he said.

Louisiana is one of the few states in the nation that offers tenure to school bus drivers.

Under current rules, drivers earn tenure if they successfully complete a three-year probationary period.

The state has 13,729 school bus drivers, according to the state Department of Education.

Under HB293, those hired after July 1 would not be eligible for tenure.

The bill is backed by the Council for a Better Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the state Department of Education and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which is a teachers’ union, opposed the measure.

LFT President Steve Monaghan said it is unfair to compare tenure laws here with the rest of the nation because many other states have collective bargaining laws to address employment issues.

Such bargaining agreements are rare in Louisiana.

Here is how the committee voted:

Voting to end tenure for school bus drivers hired after July 1 (9): State Reps Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge; Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond; Henry Burns, R-Haughton; Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette; Cameron Henry, R-New Orleans; Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville; Patrick Jefferson, D-Arcadia; Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette and Dee Richard, No Party-Thibodaux.

Voting against ending tenure for future school bus drivers (3): State Reps. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite; Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge and Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge.

 

Monday in the Louisiana Legislature

ISSUES TO WATCH MONDAY

  • HB436 Requires instruction on the Founding Principles of the U.S. to be integrated into the high school American history course in House Education committee.
  • SB350 Continues indefinitely the levy of a local tax of 1.5 percent of the gross proceeds derived from the lease or rental of an automobile pursuant to an automobile rental contract in Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs committee.
  • SB7 and SB12 Provides for a 60-month average compensation for active employees in Senate Retirement committee.
  • Joint session of the Legislature to recognize Louisiana’s 200th anniversary of joining the United States.

House convenes at 1:00 p.m.

Senate convenes at 1:00 p.m.

The joint session will be held in the House Chamber at 1:30 p.m.

HOUSE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

Education. 10:00 a.m. in Committee Room 1. Agenda includes:

HB211 Limits class size and requires two teachers in kindergarten through fourth grade classrooms.

HB293 Limits applicability of laws relative to a school bus operator becoming a regular and permanent employee of the employing school board and provides relative to removal of certain operators.

HB312 Permits, rather than requires, school systems to retain supervision of suspended or expelled students using alternative education programs.

HB418 Restructures the Health Education Authority of La..

HB436 Requires instruction on the Founding Principles of the U.S. to be integrated into the high school American history course.

HB661 Requires BESE to provide for a school health care system in all public schools.

HB662 Requires BESE to provide for a social services program in all public schools.

HB716 Limits applicability of laws relative to a school bus operator becoming a regular and permanent employee of the employing school board and provides relative to removal of certain operators.

HB730 Requires students to have the same two teachers throughout K-4.

HB927 Provides for the governance of public postsecondary education.

HB944 Eliminates extended sick leave for public school teachers and employees.

HB1088 Provides for the establishment and administration of a targeted coordinated school health program for the purpose of reducing childhood obesity and a grant program to assist public school governing authorities with implementation.

HB1136 Provides for establishment of a specialized statewide Type 2 charter school for certain at-risk students.

 

SENATE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

Finance. 9:00 a.m. in Committee Room A. Agenda includes:

HB78 Provides relative to the administration of the Livingston Parish Retired Employees’ Insurance Fund.

HB101 Authorizes an increase in fees or court costs for the 21st Judicial District Court.

HB245 Removes the sunset date for deposits from the Fishermen’s Gear Compensation Fund to the Underwater Obstruction Fund.

HB285 Provides with respect to the weighted average maturity of securities purchased as authorized investments by the state treasurer.

HB296 Provides relative to consulting services ancillary to data processing procurement.

HB352 Creates a fund to pay group insurance premiums for retired sheriffs and deputy sheriffs in DeSoto Parish.

HB960 Authorizes additional court costs for criminal matters in the 12th Judicial District Court.

SB207 Provides for review of health coverage premium rates.

SB247 Creates the Central La. Technical Community College.

SB284 Merges certain La.Technical College campuses with South Louisiana Community College.

SB464 Prohibits awards or procurements with individuals convicted of certain felony crimes.

SR32 Establishes the Major Event Funding Study Committee for the purpose of determining the feasibility of establishing trust funds to support the hosting of major events in Louisiana.

 

Retirement. 9:00 a.m. in Committee Room E. Agenda includes:

SB1 Provides for permanent benefit increases for retirees payable from the experience account.

SB7 Provides for a 60 month final compensation for all active employees.

SB9 Provides relative to employee contributions to Municipal Employees Retirement System.

SB12 Provides for a 60-month average compensation for active employees.

SB13 Provides for use of entry age normal valuation method by Louisiana State Employees Retirement System and Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana.

SB14 Provides relative to the calculation of benefits.

SB15 Provides for benefit accruals for elected officials.

SB22 Provides for membership of part-time employees.

SB35 Provides relative to benefits.

SB36 Provides for compliance with federal tax qualification requirements.

SB37 Provides for surviving spouse annuities.

SB38 Provides for Tier 2 of benefits for persons employed on or after January 1, 2013.

SB41 Provides for a minimum benefit.

SB45 Transfers certain support personnel to the system.

SB49 Provides for a second tier of benefits for persons employed on or after 1/1/13.

SB50 Provides for permanent benefit increases for retirees of the system.

SB54 Provides for the system valuation method.

SB55 Changes the system’s actuarial valuation method to entry age normal.

 

Revenue & Fiscal Affairs. 9:30 a.m. in John J. Hainkel, Jr. Room. Agenda includes:

HB225 Removes certain water transportation companies from the definition of public service property for purposes of assessment.

HB300 Authorizes the addition of a donation to the American Red Cross as a “check off” on the individual income tax return form.

HB302 Authorizes the collector to accept quarterly payments of estimated property taxes in Rapides Parish.

HB650 Creates an individual income tax return checkoff for donations to the establishment and operation of a center of excellence for autism spectrum disorder.

HB754 Authorizes state sales and use tax rebate contracts for certain businesses.

HB835 Provides that the State Bond Commission shall establish an online database for posting notices for bond validation suits.

HB898 Requires all withholding tax returns to be filed quarterly.

SB143 Requires local sales tax due on the distribution of prescription drugs by a pharmacy in the state on behalf of a pharmacy benefit management company to be collected from the pharmacy benefit management company.

SB269 Prohibits a police jury, municipality, or other local governing authority from charging any franchise fee or similar charge to an electric, gas, or water public utility which is in excess of 2% of annual gross receipts.

SB337 Provides for the property tax exemption for certain disabled veterans to apply to the spouses of such veterans if the veterans passed away prior to the enactment of the exemption.

SB350 Continues indefinitely the levy of a local tax of 1.5 percent of the gross proceeds derived from the lease or rental of an automobile pursuant to an automobile rental contract.

SB351 Authorizes a parish or municipality to continue indefinitely the levy of a local tax of 1.5 percent of the gross proceeds derived from the lease or rental of an automobile pursuant to an automobile rental contract.

SB397 Provides relative to the cancellation of an assessment for closed and inactive businesses..

SB398 Provides an alternative bidding procedure on property at a tax sale.

SB539 Provides for credit against local taxes when tangible personal property is brought into this state under certain circumstances.

SB574 Provides relative to changes of liability for payment of taxes during the redemptive period after a tax sale.

SB605 Provides for procedures and notifications required for tax sales.

SB653 Provides for the use of the tax proceeds of a sales tax district in Breaux Bridge.

SB680 Removes specific authority of the Louisiana Tax Commission to appoint a secretary.

SB717 Requires rebate loss notes on certain legislative instruments with a net decrease in revenues due to rebates by the state.

Legislative news at it happens, including supporting documents, available on the Internet at  http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/

Hearings and debate streamed live on the Internet at www.legis.la.gov

 

Senate OKs TOPS extension for reenlisting military

The Louisiana Senate unanimously passed Thursday morning a measure extending military members eligibility to maintain their TOPS scholarships.

Under current law, high school graduates who join the military have one-year to enter college on a TOPS scholarship after completing their first tour in the armed forces.

In the legislation sponsored by state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, veterans can enroll in public universities and colleges on TOPS scholarships up to one year after their active duty service ends.

Senate Bill 579 will now go to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Legislative Agenda for Thursday

House convenes at 9:00 a.m.

Senate convenes at 9:00 a.m.

 

HOUSE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

Judiciary. At adjournment in Committee Room 1. Agenda includes:

HB408 Creates the Sheriffs’ Executive Management Institute.

SB64 Provides for issuance of certain retail permits.

SB65 Creates an Indigent Transcript Fund for the 38th Judicial District Court.

SB72 Authorizes the 16th Judicial District Court to transfer excess funds from the off-duty officer witness fee fund to the criminal court fund.

SB91 Authorizes a constable of a justice of the peace court in Calcasieu Parish to appoint a deputy constable.

SB97 Creates the LA Sheriff’s Executive Management Institute.

SB173 Provides relative to the Traffic Court of New Orleans.

SB174 Provides relative to appeals by persons from traffic violations enforced by the city of New Orleans’ automated traffic enforcement system.

SB234 Provides for the Louisiana Responsible Vendor Program.

SB280 Extends the term of the judge of Division D of New Orleans Traffic Court, then abolishes Division D, followed by Division A.

SB324 Provides an automobile expense allowance for the Vermilion Parish Clerk of Court.

SB434 Provides relative to the judicial district indigent defender fund in Orleans Parish.

SB457 Provides relative to the jurisdiction of certain city courts.

SB535 Expands jurisdiction of the mayor’s court in the town of Westlake.

SB621 Provides relative to the Municipal Court and Traffic Court of New Orleans and certain court fees and salaries.

SB625 Provides relative to the consolidation of courts in Orleans Parish.

SB642 Permits city marshals and city constables to provide police manpower and equipment to a police department or sheriff’s office, upon request, during an emergency or special event.

SB700 Requires the parish office of homeland security and emergency preparedness to establish a voluntary registry of persons with special needs.

 

Labor & Industrial Relations. At adjournment in Committee Room 5. Agenda includes:

HB364 Provides with respect to an employee’s protection against reprisal.

HB572 Provides with respect to suitable jobs for disabled employees.

HB621 Provides for parties authorized to procure and release medical records.

HB669 Provides with respect to the monetary limit for prior authorization for medical treatment.

HB672 Provides relative to the prescriptive period for certain injuries.

HB733 Provides with respect to verification of compliance under the Worker’s Compensation Act.

HB1073 Provides with respect to the determination of wages for professional athletes.

SB386 Provides for payment of medical benefits within 30 days rather than 60 days contingent upon medical providers’ adoption and utilization of electronic billing rules and regulations.

SB472 Prohibits certain employees of staffing services from being classified as independent contractors.

SB676 Provides for overpayment of benefits and the recovery thereof.

 

Municipal, Parochial & Cultural Affairs. At adjournment in Committee Room 6. Agenda includes:

HB335 Relative to the New Orleans City Park Taxing District, provides with respect to procedures relative to use of state sales tax increments for tax increment financing.

HB681 Provides relative to energy efficiency or renewable energy improvement loans.

HB968 Prohibits an unpaid traffic citation that was issued by an automated traffic enforcement system from being sent to a collection agency.

HB973 Creates a hospital service district.

HB1103 Provides relative to the La. Sports and Entertainment District.

HB1119 Authorizes hospital service districts to operate facilities outside of the district’s boundaries.

HB1137 Provides relative to the filling of vacancies in certain positions in the classified police service.

HB1165 Provides relative to hotel occupancy taxes levied and collected in certain municipalities.

SB80 Provides for the powers of the chief of police of Youngsville.

SB98 Provides for the expenditure of public funds by any fire protection district, municipal fire department, or volunteer fire department.

SB312 Provides that the position of assistant police chief, relative to the towns of Broussard, Carencro, Scott and Youngsville, shall be in the unclassified service.

SB315 Re-creates the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

SB361 Provides relative to 9-1-1 fees for the Orleans Communication District.

SB496 Provides relative to the authority of the chief of police for the city of Kaplan and the position of assistant to the chief of police.

SB617 Changes the composition of the board of commissioners of the St.Tammany Parish Development District.

SB622 Authorizes the lieutenant governor to perform the duties, functions and responsibilities of the secretary of culture, recreation and tourism.

SB630 Authorizes a fixed rate for emergency telephone service charges in St. Bernard Parish.

 

Retirement. At adjournment in Committee Room 4. Agenda includes:

HB7 Provides for annual reporting to the La. School Employees’ Retirement System on privatized jobs.

HB988 Provides for a five-year deferred retirement option plan for certain members of the Firefighters’ Retirement System.

HB1030 Prohibits members of the La. School Employees’ Retirement System from remaining in that system after taking a job that is covered by a different retirement system.

SB2 Provides for attendance of legislative staff at certain executive sessions of public retirement boards.

SB10 Provides for clarification of valuation method application in state and statewide retirement systems.

SB11 Provides for definition of terms.

SB18 Provides for technical corrections.

SB19 Provides relative to the Teachers’ Retirement System of La. and provides relative to rehired retirees.

SB20 Allows retired adjunct professors to avoid benefit suspension during reemployment, subject to an earnings limitation.

SB24 Provides for compliance with federal tax qualification requirements.

SB31 Provides for purchase of service credit and membership in the system.

SB43 Provides for tax qualification.

SB657 Provides relative to the membership of the board of trustees of the District Attorneys Retirement System.

 

SENATE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

Education. At adjournment in John J. Hainkel, Jr. Room. Agenda includes: Receive and consider report issued Jan. 12, 2012 by the Governance Commission established by the Board of Regents pursuant to HCR 184 of 2011 Regular Session

HB98 Authorizes public school boards to name certain school athletic facilities after living persons.

HB149 Defines the terms “elementary school”, “middle school”, “junior high school”, and “high school” for purposes of general school law.

HB273 Provides relative to the membership of the College and Career Readiness Commission.

HB579 Provides relative to the official working language and certain designations of the Council for the Development of French in La.

HB926 Specifies circumstances under which an award applicant’s ACT/SAT test score can be submitted to and considered by the TOPS administering agency after statutorily established submission deadlines.

HB945 Extends TOPS eligibility for certain students who reenlist in the U.S. Armed Forces and maintain continuous active duty.

HCR63 Requests that legislators, statewide elected officials, and members of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education volunteer to teach in a public school for at least two days of each year of their term of office.

SB305 Removes geographic limitations on the legislature’s authority to create new school boards and provide relative to the financing of public education.

SB507 Permits participation of student athletes at certain camps and showcase opportunities provided that such participation complies with law, policies, guidelines, rules, and regulations regarding recruitment.

SB650 Provides relative to teacher tenure and for evaluation of teachers utilizing multiple indicators and data sources.

SB654 Provides relative to parental involvement as a factor in determining the effectiveness of a teacher using the value-added assessment model.

SB692 Provides for the care of students with diabetes.

SB728 Requires BESE to consider and provide funding for the individual needs of each student with special needs in the MFP.

 

Finance. 1:30 p.m. in John J. Hainkel, Jr. Room. Agenda includes: Overview and discussion of HB 1 for the Dept. of Health and Hospitals, LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans, LSU Health Care Services Division

 

Labor & Industrial Relations. At adjournment in Committee Room C. Agenda includes:

HB271 Amends provisions of law regarding inspection of riverboats.

HB363 Provides for the reporting of overtime compensation data to the Department of Revenue.

HB498 Provides for access to data from workers’ compensation insurers for fraud detection.

HB931 Provides for employer reporting of injury data.

SB113 Repeals the prohibition of smoking discrimination in the workplace.

SB521 Prohibits a parish or municipality from establishing a mandatory, minimum number of employee vacation or sick leave days.

SB560 Provides relative to workers compensation and the Louisiana Workers Compensation Law.

SB577 Establishes and provides for the Louisiana Equal Pay Task Force to study and make recommendations relating to equal pay issues in Louisiana.

SB604 Provides relative to the eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits.

SB612 Provides relative to the employment of minors.

SB613 Provides for workers’ compensation benefits, medical treatment and rehabilitation, and fraudulent conduct.

 

Local & Municipal Affairs. At adjournment in Committee Room F. Agenda includes:

HB131 Provides relative to public hearings held by municipal governing authorities regarding zoning regulations and restrictions.

HB181 Increases the membership of the governing board of the Beauregard Parish Fire Protection District No. 2.

HB250 Provides relative to the Concordia Economic and Industrial Development District.

HB252 Provides relative to the Broadmoor Crime Prevention and Improvement District in East Baton Rouge Parish.

HB256 Provides relative to per diem paid to members of the governing board of the Concordia Parish Hospital Service District No. 1.

HB998 Provides relative to investments by political subdivisions.

SB85 Requires voter approval before local governing authorities may impose civil fines for traffic violations captured by automatic traffic enforcement systems.

SB589 Provides relative to the Evangeline-Ville Platte Recreation District.

 

Natural Resources. 8:00 a.m. in Committee Room A. Agenda includes: Note: Committee will convene at 8:00 AM and begin with SB 731; recess at 9:00 AM for the Senate to convene, and return after adjournment to continue committee meeting.

HB143 Authorizes the transfer of property in Lafourche Parish to the Greater Lafourche Port Commission.

HB216 Authorizes the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries to issue certain commercial fish licenses via the Internet.

HB230 Provides for weapons used during primitive firearms season.

HB255 Authorizes the transfer of specified property by the Orleans Parish School Board.

HB346 Provides for an exchange of property in Ouachita Parish.

HB401 Provides relative to the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission’s powers to manage and control the taking of shrimp including bait shrimp.

HB406 Authorizes the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to establish recreational reefs where oyster harvest is prohibited.

HB431 Extends the application period for an oyster seed ground vessel permit.

HB486 Provides relative to expenditure of the funds received from the sale of Wild La. Stamps.

HB557 Authorizes the taking of certain nuisance animals.

HB643 Provides relative to the Alligator Resource Fund.

HB651 Provides for uniformity for fishing gear authorized to be used on certain freshwater lakes.

HB1190 Provides relative to alternative oyster culture.

HCR6 Specifies accreditation requirements for exemption from Wildlife and Fisheries Commission rules governing possession of exotic cats.

HCR10 Memorializes congress to encourage the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Gulf of Mexico Marine Fisheries Council, and the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council to adopt a weekend only fishery for red snapper.

HCR49 Requests the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries to study Bayou Teche for possible inclusion into the Historic and Scenic Rivers program.

HCR64 Requests the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries to study for possible implementation the issuance of hunting and recreational fishing licenses for a year from the date of issuance.

HCR94 Memorializes congress to encourage and enable the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review and approve Cheniere’s Sabine Pass Liquid Natural Gas facility.

SB479 Provides for sales of certain public lands for economic development purposes.

SB670 Requires liability insurance for charter boat fishing guides and charter vessels.

SB702 Provides for the transfer of certain state property in Orleans Parish.

SB731 Provides relative to remediation of oilfield sites and exploration and production sites.

SCR16 Specifies accreditation requirements for exemptions from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission rules governing possession of exotic cats..

SCR40 Requests the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, in conjunction with appropriate member agencies, to jointly study the freshwater needs of the Mermentau Basin and the feasibility of diverting Atchafalaya River water into the Mermentau Basin..

 

Transportation, Highways, & Public Works. At adjournment in Committee Room E. Agenda includes:

HB234 Creates a prestige license plate to protect the honeybee.

HB585 Requires proof of financial responsibility and notice of cancellation or termination to be submitted electronically.

HB588 Extends the time for which special temporary registration plates or markers are valid.

HB590 Exempts veterans from the payment of fees for special identification cards.

HB633 Provides relative to Weigh-In-Motion System.

HB832 Creates the Town of Ball 40th Anniversary Prestige License Plate.

HB996 Clarifies the application of E-Verify.

HB1028 Provides for the advertisement of the availability of certain license plates.

HCR16 Approves certain rules and regulations promulgated by the Amite River Basin Drainage and Water Conservation District.

SB79 Authorizes ready-mixed concrete trucks to exceed maximum allowable gross vehicle weight under certain conditions.

SB168 Provide other penalties for various traffic violations.

SB172 Restricts the use of automated enforcement systems for the detection of speed.

SB338 Provides for time period between award and execution of certain public works contracts.

SB376 Provide for notice of a violation of provisions regarding transportation of hazardous waste.

SB420 Provides relative to motor carrier transportation contracts.

SB424 Provides relative to speed cameras.

SB693 Provides relative to motor carrier transportation contracts and construction contracts.

SB699 Provides relative to the New Orleans Lakefront Airport.

SCR41 Approves the annual integrated coastal protection plan for Fiscal Year 2012-2013..

SCR46 Approves the comprehensive master plan for integrated coastal protection.

 

ISSUES TO WATCH WEDNESDAY

  • HB1165 would allow City of Zachary to keep hotel occupancy tax paid by the lodging in that city in House Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs committee.
  • SB731, legislation that would address legacy lawsuits is being considered in Senate Natural Resources committee.
  • Overview and discussion of HB 1 for the Department of  Health and Hospitals, LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans, LSU Health Care Services Division in Senate Finance committee.

Legislative news at it happens, including supporting documents, available on the Internet at  http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/

Hearings and debate streamed live on the Internet at www.legis.la.gov

 

Senate OKs breakaway school district for southeast Baton Rouge

A plan that would permit a new breakaway school district in southeast Baton Rouge won lopsided approval Wednesday in the Louisiana Senate.
The two-bill package passed 30-8 and 29-7 after about one hour of debate.
The plan next faces action in the Louisiana House and, if approved there, voters statewide.
Under the proposal, 10 public schools now in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system would make up the newly-formed Southeast Baton Rouge Community School System.
State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central and sponsor of the plan, said the package is a response to pleas from mothers, fathers, students and others who have concluded that long-standing problems in the East Baton Rouge system demand a fresh start.
“They want it very badly,” White said of residents in the area.
The proposed district would extend southeast from the Interstate 10/12 split, south of I-12 and east of I-10 to the parish lines.
It would apply to seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school.
The new district would be the fourth of its kind and follow breakaway moves by Baker, Central and Zachary.
All used to be part of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, which has a “D” rating.
White noted that Istrouma High School will soon be put under state control — which he called the eighth such school in the district — and that 31 other failing schools in north Baton Rouge are about to enter a new improvement zone, which will also be overseen by the state.
He said parish education spending totals $14,300 per student when construction dollars are included.
“It is not about the money,” White told the Senate. “It is about are we going to educate these kids.”
But state Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, disputed White’s comments in a pointed exchange near the end of the debate.
Broome said that, while views vary on how to repair the schools, dismantling the system is not the answer.
“If we are going to work toward education reform in East Baton Rouge Parish let’s all do it together,” Broome said.
She said that leaving one segment of the school population behind “to just suffer, that is not being community minded.”
Broome sponsored an amendment that would require the new district to provide about $6 million per year to the East Baton Rouge Parish school system for “legacy” costs, such as teacher retirement and other expenses.
“With all of these breakaways we will be bankrupt if this is not addressed,” she said.
The amendment failed 16-20.
The proposal that spells out details of the plan is Senate Bill 563, which requires a simple majority.
The constitutional amendment that is also required, Senate Bill 299, needs a two-thirds vote of support, which is 26 in the Senate.
White said after the vote that he thinks the bills stand a good chance of passage in the House, even with intense opposition from leaders of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system,
“It is change, it is difficult,” he said.
East Baton Rouge Parish school system leaders note that $97 million has been committed for schools in the proposed district.
Broome said that includes $17 million for Woodlawn Elementary School, $13 million for Woodlawn Middle School and $23 million for Woodlawn High School.
The East Baton Rouge school system has about 43,000 students, and black students make up 81 percent of enrollment.
About 6,800 students attend public schools in the proposed district now, and officials say about 55 percent are minority.
What the new district would look like is in dispute.
White has said he thinks enrollment will be about 25 percent minority.
Critics contend that figure is too high and that race concerns are part of the motivation for the move.
Here are the 10 schools that are now in the East Baton Rouge Parish system that would make up the new district:
Cedarcrest-Southmoor, Jefferson Terrace, Parkview, Shenandoah, Wedgewood, Westminster and Woodlawn elementary schools; Woodlawn and Southeast middle schools and Woodlawn High School.
Voting FOR establishing a new school district in southeast Baton Rouge (30): President Alario, Adley, Allain, Appel, Buffington, Chabert, Claitor, Cortez, Crowe, Donahue, Erdey, Guillory, Johns, Kostelka, Long, Martiny, Mills, Morrell, Morrish, Nevers, Peacock, Perry, Riser, G. Smith, J. Smith, Tarver, Thompson, Walsworth, Ward and White.
Voting AGAINST SB563 (8): Sens. Broome, Brown, Dorsey-Colomb, Gallot, Heitmeier, LaFleur, Murray and Peterson.
NOT Voting (1): Sen. Amedee.

Shelly Dick nominated to federal bench

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama nominated Baton Rouge attorney Shelly D. Dick on Wednesday afternoon to the federal judgeship left vacant by the death of Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson.

Tyson died in July after a long fight with lung cancer.

Dick is a founding partner in the Baton Rouge firm of Forrester & Dick.

In November, Dick was one of three possible nominees recommended to Obama by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. The other two were Baton Rouge attorneys Winston DeCuir Jr. and Christine Lipsey.

Dick is a veteran defense attorney in civil litigation in federal court. And she has represented both government and non-government clients in matters of federal employment law.

For the past three years, Dick has served the Louisiana Workforce Commission as an ad hoc hearing officer in the Office of Worker’s Compensation.

Dick graduated cum laude in business administration in 1981 at the University of Texas at Austin. And she managed a $3 million sales territory for Dow Chemical for five years before entering law school.

She earned her law degree in 1988 at LSU, where she was a member of the LSU Law Review.

Her name will now be sent to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

Committee members often do not take action on a nominee unless he or she has the approval of both of a state’s senators. That means that any proposed judicial appointment in Louisiana also is subject to the approval of Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

 

Sex education bill narrowly fails. Could be debated again

Advocate Staff Photo by Travis Spradling. State Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, speaks Wednesday to state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, after an 8-8 vote failed to advance her legislation that would mandate sex education classes at every public school. The closeness of the vote means House Bill 820 can be debated again.

A bill that would require the teaching of sex education in public schools narrowly failed Wednesday afternoon in a Louisiana House committee.

The vote was 8-8,  one short of the majority needed for any proposal to move to the full House for debate but enough to allow the legislation to be debated again.

State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge and sponsor of the measure, said she plans to make another try at winning approval in the House Education Committee.

The proposal is House Bill 820 and would take effect with the 2013-14 school year. Under the plan, schools would be required to provide “age appropriate” instruction on human sexuality.

Topics at various grades would include the teaching of abstinence as the most reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and the proper use of contraceptives.

The bill would ban any advocacy for abortion.

Parents could, through a written request, have their children removed from the class.

Backers said the change is needed, in part because of Louisiana’s high rate of sexually transmitted diseases

“We are not giving them the right information to be healthy teens,” Smith told the committee.

Opponents said the issue should remain a local matter and one for parents and guardians.

Under current law, local school districts have the option of offering sex education classes but it is not a requirement.

Senate panel OKs bill to set up health insurance exchanges

A state Senate committee defied the Jindal administration Wednesday and advanced legislation that would organize an exchange to help facilitate the purchase and sale of health care insurance under the new federal law.

The Senate Insurance Committee “just voted to make a very risky move,” said Bruce Greenstein, secretary of state Health and Hospitals, after the panel voted 6-2 to advance Senate Bill 744. Louisiana is one of a handful of states that have refused to set up a health care insurance and opt instead for the federal exchange as required under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Greenstein said the Jindal administration opposed the legislation because the exchange, a website where people without health insurance could go to find policies, would set up a new government bureaucracy that ultimately would be funded by increased state taxes or premiums.

“This is an attempt to be prepared,” countered state Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, who sponsored SB744.

The federal law requires that states either set up their own exchange or join the federal government’s 2014.

Work on organizing the exchange would stop should the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering the constitutionality of the federal health care revamp, strike down the law.

Peterson amended the legislation to require the board putting together the exchange to present the plan first for approval to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget before sending it the federal government.

 

Ed panel OKs bill that would increase Southern Lab tuition

Advocate Staff Photo by Travis Spradling. State Rep. Dalton Honoré, left, D-Baton Rouge, and Preston Castille, right, a member of the Southern University Lab School Advisory group, meet Wednesday after a House committee advanced legislation authorizing a tuition increase at Southern University Lab School.

Parents of Southern University Laboratory School students could be on the hook to pay about $2,400 per year to send their children to the school after the Louisiana House Education committee approved a $500 tuition increase Wednesday.

The school currently charges about $997 per semester, or $1,994 per year. House Bill 856 sponsored by state Rep. Dalton Honoré, D-Baton Rouge, will advance to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Another Honoré sponsored bill, House Bill 761, which would allow the school to hire private vendors to provide food service, also advanced out of the committee and is headed to the House floor for consideration. School Director, Ronnie Harrison said privatizing food service could save the school about $36,000 per year.