Legislature prefiles about 900 bills

04 01, 2013 by The Advocate

The chairman of the House’s tax committee filed legislation to repeal personal income taxes, corporate income taxes and corporate franchise taxes in the hours before the Friday night deadline to prefile legislation for the upcoming 2013 general session of the Louisiana Legislature.

Representatives in the Louisiana House prefiled 666 bills by the deadline, according to the Louisiana News Bureau. State senators prefiled another 235 measures. Additionally, 54 constitutional amendments were prefiled, according to the Bureau counted.

The 2013 session convenes at noon April 8 and will adjourn no later than 6 p.m. June 6.

A member is allowed to file five additional fiscal-related bills by 6 p.m. April 16, according to legislative rules.

As chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, state Rep. Joel Robideaux has long said he would be lead sponsor of the Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposal to abolish income taxes and replace the missing revenues with increased sales taxes, an expansion that would charge sales taxes on previously taxed goods and services, and the end of some of the tax exemptions, deductions and credits.

Robideaux, R-Lafayette, did not respond to messages left on his telephone Thursday and Friday.

Robideaux prefiled 18 bills Friday.

Two of the measures prefiled by Robideaux were House Bill 441 and House Bill 639, which are part of the governor’s package, according to Douglas Baker, spokesman for the state Department of Revenue.

The five-page HB441 would repeal present law that authorizes the state to collect tax on the taxable income of corporations using five rates between 4 percent and 8 percent depending on the amount of income. The bill, if approved by the Legislature, would take effect Jan. 1.

The five-page HB639 would repeal the law that allows the collection of individual state income taxes. The measure becomes effective Jan. 1.

House Bill 574 would increase the tax on cigarettes from 36 cents per pack to $1.41 per pack.

The governor’s top tax aide, Tim Barfield, of the state Department of Revenue, announced a major change to Jindal’s tax plan Thursday by bumping up the proposed state sales tax increase. Instead of going from 4 percent to 5.88 percent, state sales tax now would increase to 6.25 percent.

The state sales tax hike would help replace the nearly $3 billion in state revenue that would be lost by eliminating the state’s personal income and corporate taxes.

Legislators also have ideas for changes in the state’s tax code.

State Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville, filed House Bill 301 to exclude the resale of services from being considered a retail sale.

In House Bill 271, state Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, proposed a 10-year phase out of state income tax.

The Jindal administration has filed what it calls “clean up” legislation to fix problems with a new 401(k)-type retirement plan for state employees hired after July 1.

The cash balance plan is under court challenge over whether it got the required votes for passage.

Meanwhile, state employee and teachers’ retirement systems back a resolution that would suspend the law for a year because there have been no IRS rulings on its tax exempt status and whether the benefit would be equivalent to Social Security. Adverse rulings would be costly to employees and employers.

There could be a legislative challenge to Jindal’s rejection of Medicaid expansion a provision of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Legislation has been filed to require state participation.

On the public schools front, one of the key issues is a possible push to re-enact in separate bills a sweeping 2012 law that was struck down by 19th Judicial District Court Judge R. Michael Caldwell. He ruled that last year’s law illegally included too many separate topics.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, sponsor of last year’s measure, said this year’s bills are aimed at ensuring the changes remain in effect in case the state Supreme Court, where Caldwell’s ruling is being appealed, also strikes down the law.

One such proposal by Appel, Senate Bill 89, would re-enact parts of last year’s measure that makes it harder for teachers to earn and retain a form of job security called tenure.

Others are planned that would revamp the authority of superintendents and school boards; end the rule that teacher seniority be a key factor in layoffs and change teacher salary schedules, in part to provide extra pay for hard-to-fill classrooms.

As for higher education, legislators have filed bills seeking to give increased tuition authority to the management boards overseeing the LSU, Southern University, University of Louisiana and Louisiana Community and Technical College systems. Currently, increasing tuition requires two-thirds approval by the Legislature.

Other bills in consideration include one measure that explore the implications of tying state funding to performance outcomes such as graduation and retention rates, and another bill that would put a cap on the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, or TOPS, the state’s popular scholarship program for college students.

State Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, prefiled a proposal to amend the state constitution to impose a five-cent tax on all single use disposable plastic bags. House Bill 529 is similar to plastic bag taxes and fees are being proposed in state legislatures in Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington this year. Currently, only the District of Columbia has a bag tax on the books.

Koran Addo, Michelle Millhollon, Will Sentell and Marsha Shuler of The Advocate Capitol news bureau and The Associated Press contributed to this report.