Monday, June 02, 2014

Should be an interesting day

The 2014 session of the Louisiana Legislature ends today at 6 pm with the traditional chicken boxing exhibition outside on the capitol grounds (weather permitting).   Free wine ice cream will be distributed.

I guess there's also some minor housekeeping to attend.
What remains for Monday is a pile of bills awaiting approval of final compromises, called conference reports. A majority of each chamber must agree to the exact wording before legislation can clear final passage.

The Senate needs to sign off on a bill that would forbid the use of welfare cards at bars and tattoo parlors. The House needs to vote on the final wording of legislation on whether lawmakers should confirm the hiring and pay of the state’s higher education commissioner.

Also awaiting conference report votes are bills that would study consolidating the New Orleans Traffic and Municipal courts, stiffen penalties for beating up referees at children’s sporting events and change the state’s plumbing standards to the International Plumbing Code.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, is one of the legislators trying to work out last-minute wording on a bill. He is still trying to get issues resolved regarding legislation on life support for pregnant women.
Oh and they still need to pass the capital outlay budget which presently appears to be out of balance by as much as $400 million. 

But the most interesting development, reported by The Lens yesterday afternoon concerns the little-mentioned riverfront taxing district to nowhere which hasn't come up in conversation for nearly a month since it was introduced. The district would grant the city all of the sales and hotel/motel tax revenue from hotel and retail projects within its boundaries... should such hotels ever exist.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu and legislative allies are making a last-minute effort to let the city keep all taxes on property at or near the New Orleans riverfront that hasn’t yet been developed.

Legislators said the proposal would include the deserted World Trade Center and under-developed property such as the parking lot next to the Piazza d’ Italia, which could accommodate a hotel.

Creating the taxing authority is so controversial that it has gotten no public hearing by lawmakers. 

Nonetheless, legislators are trying to attach the proposal to another bill and pass it before adjournment at 6 p.m. Monday.

“A lot of people, unfortunately, haven’t been apprised of the details, which could be problematic,” state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, said in an interview Sunday.

The Lens first reported on the mayor’s plans five weeks ago, but it has gotten practically no attention since, and it was never heard in a legislative committee, typically the first step for legislation.

At that time it was introduced, there were a number of fuzzy details in the so-called "placeholder bill" which no one seemed to be in a hurry to clarify. The bill appears to give governing authority over the new district to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District which seems like a conflict of interest.  It also is not clear whether the boundaries of the district are limited or whether it can be expanded and how.

In some regards, it's not the worst idea ever conceived.  The city is starved for revenue. And the mayor tried and failed to get the legislature to agree to raise taxes on cigarettes and on hotel rooms on our behalf this session.  Anyway, I guess we'll know by the end of the day if this is even happening.  The Advocate doesn't even mention it.

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