Week 2: Variegated Voices, Minimal Movement

Apr 21, 2017

The second week of the session brought a kaleidoscope of activity to the Capitol, as color co-ordinated citizen activist groups and students sporting blue, yellow, red, green and/or purple  rallied on the steps and then cornered their lawmakers urging votes for equal pay, criminal justice reform, and mostly for more funding.

While House Appropriations took two days of public testimony on the proposed budget, a full slate of committee meetings heard debates on a wide variety of bills this week. In House Education, there was a bill to let schoolkids carry and apply sunscreen.

“The results of not using it are something we just can’t live with, really,” said the bill’s author, Harvey LeBas of Ville Platte.

Baton Rouge Representative Pat Smith, concerned about school employees applying the sunscreen to the littlest children, objected to the bill.

“A child can go home and say somebody touched me in the wrong place. Could have been accidental, but it becomes a problem,” Smith said.

The bill was approved, and sent to the House floor.

A bill to let Louisiana’s members of Congress practice medicine in the state’s public hospitals raised concerns about political pressure being used to water down ethics rules.

“I’m just wondering what’s driving this – why is it necessary?” Covington Representative John Schroder inquired.

“Has Senator Cassidy asked for this bill to be filed?” New Orleans Representative Gary Carter, the bill’s author responded. “I haven’t talked to him. LSU Health Sciences contacted me.”

That bill was sent back for more work.

Do you need a shooting range, a plant nursery, or even the state’s only hot springs—a former resort? They’re state-owned surplus properties, now being converted to cash.

‘We are requesting your permission today to sell these properties one of three ways: via a sheriff’s sale, or a sealed bid, or – in some cases we’d like to use the services of a realtor to help market the properties,” the Division of Administration’s Mark Moses told both the House and Senate Natural Resources committees. Lawmakers gave their blessing to the sales.

On the tax reform front, Alexandria Representative Lance Harris offered his bill to collect sales tax quicker.

“Every day, somebody’s saying that we need to raise revenue – that we need to raise taxes to pay for government. This is an efficiency bill,” Harris said of his measure to have wholesalers collect sales tax from retailers up front.

Harris, who is a retailer himself, said it’s not hard to use computers to keep two sets of books for your business. He gave an alarming example.

“The owner of La Shish restaurants in Detroit, Michigan, was able to skim $20-million in four years. He sent it to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

That happened in 2006.

And Thursday, at the end of the second work week, the full House voted approval of two bills, sending them over to the Senate.

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