Monday, April 8, 2013

Legislative Session Opens In Baton Rouge; 900 Bills Pre-Filed

The 2013 Legislative Session opens today in Baton Rouge. Governor Bobby Jindal will address the legislators at 1pm CT. The Governor’s address will be carried live on many LPB affiliates across the state.

While this is a fiscal session, legislators pre-filed 900 bills. Legislators were thankfully limited to 5 non-fiscal bills each.
While there are several bills regarding to large issues like Governor Jindal’s plan to eliminate the state income tax and gun control, talk at the session will also be dominated by the budget and the use again of one-time money to fill funding holes.

Sprinkled in among all of the weighty issues facing the state, legislators will also discuss and debate:
-          5 bills creating special license plates including the “I’m Cajun” license plate, license plates benefiting the March of Dimes and the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation, and even a license plate if you want the world to know that you are a Republican or a Democrat.

-          HB 175 proposed by Baton Rouge Rep Patricia Smith will allow felons to regain the right to vote.

-          HB 300 proposed by Natchitoches Rep Kenny Cox clarifies the definition of a lighter and a novelty lighter.

-          HB 314, the Social Media Privacy Protection Act, bans schools and employers from asking for your email and Facebook passwords.

-          HB 445 is the Louisiana Beverage Container Law. It calls for a $.05 deposit and refund for glass and metal beverage bottles. Yes, that means that your 12-pack will be going up (but, you’ll get the money back if return the bottles – so it’s “revenue-neutral” to use a favorite Baton Rouge buzzword).

-          HB 502 allows for night hunting of nuisance animals year-round on private property. Currently, you are only allowed to shot nutria, beavers and “outlaw quadrupeds” from March – August. The new bill still requires that you notify your Sheriff 24 hours in advance of going on the hunt.

-          HB 529 imposes a $.05 tax on single-use plastic bags, you know, the bags you get at the grocery store or at a convenience store. Rep Regina Barrow wants to make this a Constitutional Amendment that we’ll vote on in November of 2014.

And my favorite bill:

-          HB 144 which would require the LSU Board of Supervisors to offer 1st time entering Freshmen the right to purchase tickets to attend football games in Tiger Stadium.

Now, I’m sure all of these bills seem worthwhile to someone but, do we really need them. Shouldn’t the legislature focus it’s time and energy on debating the merits or non-merits of Governor Jindal’s tax swap plan? What about debating the dismantling of the state’s Charity Hospital System or discussing Medicaid Expansion or the budget?

Shouldn’t legislators debate health care with as much time as they are spending on special license plates?