Last month, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu spent a weekend in South Carolina campaigning. He spoke at African-American churches and gave television interviews.
No, he’s not running for governor of South Carolina. He’s hitting the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign.
Landrieu voted early in Louisiana’s presidential primary for her and turned his vote into a minor media event. But it won’t be the mayor’s last gift to the Clinton campaign.
Landrieu is expected to do more traveling around the country for Clinton in the near future. He’s already offered assistance with fundraising.
Speculation continues as to whether Landrieu could end up in Washington working for Clinton should she win. He’s certainly becoming an out-front national surrogate.
There are some connections between the campaign and Landrieu aside from on-the-surface political support. Fabien Levy and Hyma Moore are running Clinton’s Louisiana operations. Both previously worked for Landrieu. Levy also worked on the 2014 campaign of former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Preparing For Future Sessions
Legislators managed to pass tax increases and budget cuts during the first, and maybe last, special session of the year. But they fell short of making any structural changes.
The shortened timeframe of the session and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ special call for it; and the session’s agenda; were all culprits. But members of the House and Senate didn’t ignore these problems completely.
They adopted HCR 11 by Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, which creates a review panel that will make recommendations on budget and tax reforms that will be turned into legislation for the next applicable session.
Schroder said the goal is to modernize and enhance the efficiency and fairness of the state’s tax policies for individuals and businesses. His resolution charges the panel, known as the Task Force on Structural Change in Budget and Tax Policy, with reporting its findings to the Legislature by Sept. 1.
Spending reforms and overhauls of the tax code were major sticking points for Republicans during the special session. They asked the governor on several occasions to agree to future negotiations on reforms that target the state’s pension systems, sentencing guidelines, Medicaid program and other areas.
Schroder’s resolution, which was co-authored by House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, stacks the panel with academics, tax professionals and representatives from business and civic organizations.
It won’t be a study group, Schroder said; rather, it will be a policy recommendation panel that will sift through recently completed studies in order to produce a legislative package. That process would give lawmakers time to draft bills and meet with other stakeholders ahead of the next applicable session.
Bills that increase taxes and make certain fiscal changes can only be introduced in regular sessions held in odd-numbered years.
For those involved in tax policy and those who were playing offense or defense during the special session, the formation and membership of the panel is of great interest — as will be its work.
Tauzin Ramps Up Baton Rouge Office
The political and business consulting firm run by former Congressman Billy Tauzin is further expanding its operations in Louisiana, and will be establishing an office in Baton Rouge.
Through that new structure — Tauzin Consultants, which was launched in Washington in 2011 — will seek to brand itself as a connector between Baton Rouge and Washington, D.C.
Matt Gresham is joining the newly formed Tauzin Louisiana Strategies as the lead in-state consultant. But Tauzin said he’ll be spending more time in Baton Rouge as well. “You can count on that,” he said.
Lawmakers Gear Up For Other Session
While political eyes and ears were tuned to the ongoing special session, which was called to address a historic set of budget shortfalls, lawmakers were juggling their responsibilities to make time for the upcoming regular session, which promises to have its own policy debates.
The regular session convened on March 14 — just five days after the special session adjourns. The first round of pre-filing deadlines for regular session bills have already passed.
The 2016-17 budget will undoubtedly hog a great deal of attention during the regular session. But it appears there are also enough leftover high-profile issues from last year’s regular session to keep lawmakers busy.
For example, Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, has HB 185 to prohibit public payrolls from being used for the deduction of union dues. The legislation was introduced last year, but following an intense committee debate, was never voted on by the full House.
The issue of raw milk will make a comeback as well. The question of how raw milk can be sold by a farmer to a consumer is addressed by SB 29 by Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte. It was an unusual issue during the 2015 regular session that drew an unexpected amount of interest.
A perennial topic, dating back further than union dues and raw milk, is the ability of legislators to award scholarships to Tulane University. HB 103 by Rep. Dee Richard, No Party-Thibodeaux, does away with the practice. It’s another bill that failed to earn a vote last year.
Then there are issues that have bubbled to the surface due to national politics. HB 151 by Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, would prohibit the creation of “sanctuary cities,” which is a term used to describe municipalities that supposedly have policies that prohibit the prosecution of undocumented immigrants.
Lawmakers will also follow up on a recent Louisiana Supreme Court decision ruling unconstitutional the law that bars convicted felons from running for office for 15 years after their sentences end. The court decided that the constitutional amendment approved by voters banning convicted felons from running excluded language that had been approved by the Legislature, and this made the law invalid. Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, has HB 153 to fix that, and Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, has HB 83 to do the same. Both measures are constitutional amendments that will require voter approval.
Finally, no regular session is complete without a few bills to tickle the fancy of policy trackers who demand lighter fare — like HB 164 by Morris, which would designate the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, also referred to as the “passion butterfly,” as the official state butterfly.
Rep. Melinda White, D-Bogalusa, also has HB 179, which would add “blaze pink” as an alternative to “hunter orange.” Current law requires hunters to display no fewer than 400 square inches of hunter orange. This new law would allow for blaze pink as well, which is defined in the legislation as a “daylight florescent pink color.”
Norquist Appeals To Lawmakers
Grover G. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, sent an email to every member of the Louisiana Legislature during the special session asking each lawmaker to think twice before increasing taxes.
Norquist is pushing the Legislature to reject Gov. John Bel Edwards’ tax proposals.
He made no mention of the SAVE act, which is on the verge of being repealed after his organization supported it last year. Among other things, the SAVE act created a convoluted offset in the budget that allowed lawmakers — and former Gov. Bobby Jindal — to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes while claiming everything was done in a “revenue neutral” manner; in other words, they could say that whatever was done wasn’t really a tax increase.
Lawmakers this session appear poised to pass legislation scrubbing the act from the books.
From Norquist’s letter: “Pelican State taxpayers have been hit with more than 20 federal tax hikes over the last six years and state legislators enacted over $600 million in tax hikes just last year that reduced the job-creating capacity of Louisiana businesses. The last thing Louisiana taxpayers need, especially amid tepid economic growth and uncertainty, is to be hit with another round of tax increases at the state level.”
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