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Fiscal session includes everything, even budget

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Written by: Mike Hasten


BATON ROUGE — The 2011 “fiscal session” of the Legislature will offer something for almost everyone, from abortion to zoology, and even feature discussion of the budget.

The fiscal session idea was created in 1993 so lawmakers could focus strictly on balancing the budget and establish financial plans for future years.

But because many legislators were not involved in making income and expenditure decisions in committees, the process was altered by Act 1231 of the 2001 session in legislation by former Sen. Don Hines, D-Bunkie. That amendment, which was approved by voters in 2002 but didn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2004, allowed the introduction of five bills of a nonfiscal nature and unlimited local bills.

State lawmakers say that led to the death of the “fiscal session” because so many of the nonfiscal bills capture most of the attention while keeping to the restriction of 45 meeting days in a 60-day period limit in odd-number year sessions.

They say it has become an abbreviated version of regular even-year sessions, in which business is conducted on no more than 60 days in an 85-day period.

If all 39 senators and 105 House members filed five general purpose bills each — and many did — there would be 720 such bills to consider. An unlimited number of bills relating to state finances and local matters could be filed.

As of Friday, 841 bills were filed. Senators filed 251 and House members filed 590.

Among the sure-to-be-controversial general bills pre-filed by representatives and senators are:

uHB587 by Rep. John LaBruzzo , R-Metairie, which extends penalties for feticide to doctors who perform abortions and to the women who have them.

The state has a law against abortions that says it would go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court throws out the Roe v. Wade decision. LaBruzzo’s bill removes that provision and strengthens the language in the current law. He says he hopes the Legislature would approve it so it can go to the high court.

uSB70 by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, which seeks to repeal the law that allows school systems to introduce alternatives to evolution and, as critics say, introduce creationism into public school classrooms. Supporters of repealing what organizer Zack Kopplin calls the “misnamed and misguided Louisiana Science Education Act” will rally on the Capitol steps at 11 a.m. Thursday.

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The position pushed by Kopplin, a high school senior who is the son of Andy Kopplin, a top official in the administrations of former Govs. Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco, is supported by high school science teachers and college professors and 41 Nobel laureate scientists.

Supporters of the law say it gives schools the opportunity to introduce other ideas but doesn’t require it. Gov. Bobby Jindal is among the supporters and is expected to oppose the repeal.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines adopted after the law passed ban promotion of a religious doctrine in supplemental materials and require that information presented by teachers be “scientifically sound and supported by empirical evidence.” The board didn’t include a specific ban on the teaching of creationism and doesn’t require state approval of the materials.

Despite the $1.6 billion budget hole faced in this session, several pieces of legislation seek to grant more tax breaks, which would further reduce state revenue. The governor is promoting several business tax breaks that are scheduled to expire.

uWhile confirmed smoker Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, pushes HB63 to increase taxes on tobacco products, non-smoker Rep. Joel Robideaux, I-Lafayette, seeks in HB268 to grant a tax exemption on tobacco products that are distributed as free samples at trade conventions.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he opposes any tax increase.

uSB13 by Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Livonia, would allow parents who pay private or parochial school tuition and fees to deduct the entire amount, up to $5,000 per child, which would lift the current 50 percent cap on deducting such expenses.

uHB298 grants a tax credit for people or businesses for contributing to organizations that give scholarships or grants.

uHB247 grants sales tax exemption for items sold at nonprofit-sponsored events promoting the state’s food, culture, music, art, food or heritage.

uHB 239 and HB242 by Rep. Walker Hines, R-New Orleans, would lift the state income and corporate franchise taxes, although he admits they might not go anywhere. He believes his HB286, which would allow the state to give tax rebates if there is a surplus in the state budget, would have a better chance.

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The House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, has gotten a several-week jump on reviewing HB1, the proposed state budget for next fiscal year.

Estimates have shown state and federal revenues run about $1.6 billion short of continuing current-year expenditures, so cuts are being made in numerous programs.

Complaints about using one-time revenue to cover ongoing expenses have prompted legislation that would limit spending and put restraints on using one-time money to fill budget hole.

And there’s what’s being called “the birther bill.”

uHB561 by Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, requires that any candidate qualifying to run in Louisiana for president, vice president, U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate must provide “an original or certified copy of the candidate’s birth certificate that includes the date and place of birth, the names of the hospital and the attending physician, and signatures of the witnesses in attendance.”

Candidates would also have to present a “sworn statement or form that identifies the candidate’s places of residence for the preceding 14 years” for president and vice president.

Documentation must be presented that “verifies the candidate’s U.S. citizenship for at least the preceding nine years and current residence within the state” for senatorial candidates and that “verifies the candidate’s U.S. citizenship for at least the preceding seven years and current residence within the state” for congressional candidates.

The U.S. Constitution states “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.”

Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin said the governor would sign the legislation into law it the Legislature approves it.

Written by demon53

April 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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