Sales tax streamlining bill passes

Published: June 4, 2021

By: Matthew Bennett and Adrian Dubose | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–The Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a bill to streamline sales tax collections, while the House refused to extend $180 million in tax credits for the movie industry, at least for now.

The Senate also voted to extend the suspension of the corporation franchise tax on the first $300,000 of capital for small business corporations with taxable income of $1 million or less. The measure could cost the state $313.5 million in revenue over five years.

The push to streamline sales tax collections was led by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzalez. The goal was to create one body to collect both the state and local portions of the sales tax, simplifying the payment process for businesses, and then distribute the money to the various jurisdictions.

Schexnayder’s bill, HB 199, would require a constitutional amendment approved by state voters. It would then create the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission, comprised of eight members, to oversee the effort and make the collection process as simple for businesses as it is in many other states.

“We’ve been trying to get this done for nearly 40 years and today we did it,” Schexnayder said in a statement. “Removing this roadblock is the critical first step in turning our state around and bringing good, high-quality jobs for our people. Today was a big day for Louisiana.”

Also on Thursday, the House voted 45-37 against extending the sunset date for the movie industry tax credit.

Read more at Biz Magazine

La. college athlete endorsement bill heads to governor

Published: June 9, 2021

By: Adrian Dubose, LSU Manship School News Service

LSU
LSU Athletics

BATON ROUGE, La. – A bill that would let Louisiana college athletes cash in on the use of their names, images or other likenesses passed the Legislature and is on the way to the governor’s desk.

The Senate voted 35-0 Tuesday to approve the bill with amendments that had been added in the House. The bill, SB 60, passed 88-7 in the House on Monday.

The bill would allow college athletes to profit off their names and likenesses once the National Collegiate Athletic Association gives guidance on how athletes can profit off themselves.

The bill comes shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide on the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s case about its limits on eligibility and compensation. A number of states have passed similar bills to overcome the NCAA’s reluctance to loosen its rules when athletes’ names and images are used in video games or for other commercial reasons.

“I think this is important, and I think this is where our country is headed, and I think this is important for the schools in Louisiana,” said Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley. “Fifteen other states have passed legislation on this matter, so if Louisiana does not pass this, they will be left behind.”

Read more at KTBS3

Two horse racing bills advance in La. Senate

In this image provided by Hodges Photography, Hot Rod Charlie, with Joel Rosario aboard, wins...
In this image provided by Hodges Photography, Hot Rod Charlie, with Joel Rosario aboard, wins the 108th running of the $1,000,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby horse race at the Fair Grounds Race Course, Saturday, March 20, 2021, in New Orleans.(LOU HODGES, JR.. | AP Images)

Published: June 8, 2021

By: Adrian Dubose, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Wire) – The Senate gave final legislative approval Tuesday to two bills relating to horse racing, including one that would benefit a close friend of Senate President Page Cortez.

Senate Bill 209, pushed by Cortez, would let off-track betting parlors allow gambling on video replays of horse races that occurred in the past.

The bill was authored by Sen. Gary Smith Jr., and it passed the House 84-11 Monday with amendments that limited the number of establishments that could offer this type of gambling.

The Advocate reported Monday that Cortez, R-Lafayette, lives next door to Joel Robideaux, a former state representative and Lafayette mayor who is the lobbyist for one of the companies expected to offer the betting via devices like slot machines.

Read more at KSLA News 12

Lawyer advertising restriction clears Legislature

Published: June 8, 2021

By: Adrian Dubose | LSU Manship School News Service

Legislation to regulate advertisements by lawyers seeking clients with problems with drugs or medical devices won final legislative passage Tuesday.

Senate Bill 43 by Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Shreveport, passed the Louisiana House 70-30 Monday. The Senate concurred 34-1 Tuesday with a House amendment and moved the bill to the governor’s desk.

The bill prohibits lawyers from using terms like “medical alert” or “health alert” in ads soliciting clients who might have had problems with prescription drugs or medical devices.

It also prevents the lawyers from using the logos of government agencies in ways that imply that they have government approval for their lawsuits.

During the House debate, some lawmakers raised questions about the bill’s purpose and whether it was violated the First Amendment.

Read more at The Advocate

Gov. Edwards launches ‘Shot for a Shot’ campaign to fight COVID-19

Published: June 4, 2021

By: Ryan Nelsen | LSU Manship School News Service

Gov. Edwards
Gov. John Bel Edwards unveiled his “shot for a shot” campaign Thursday. (Photo Credit: Ryan Nelsen/LSU Manship School News Service)

BATON ROUGE, La. — With hurricane season having started Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards urged Louisianans to add a COVID vaccination to their prep list and offered incentives for getting the shot.

In a news briefing at the Capitol Thursday, Edwards debuted his “shot for a shot” campaign that allows citizens to show their vaccination cards at participating establishments for a free drink.

“So please kick off the summer with a refreshing beverage while also supporting our local restaurant and bars,” said Edwards.

The offer is good with proof of vaccination taken within the last seven days and lasts through July. Edwards also announced that anyone with a vaccination card has a free day pass to visit the 21 State Parks or 18 Historical Sites until the end of the month.

Dr. Dawn Marcelle of the Louisiana Department of Health announced that the state had 300 new COVID cases and 10 new deaths in the 24 hours through noon Thursday. She said that the state has found variants of the virus from Brazil, United Kingdom and India.

Marcelle also said that out of the more than 3 million people vaccinated in the state, only 23 have died of COVID. The deaths did not occur from an adverse reaction to the vaccination.

Louisiana has vaccinated 32% of its citizens, which is well below the national average of 41.5%. The state has vaccinated 72% of its citizens 65 and older.

Read more at The Daily Iberian

Mandatory kindergarten bill progresses

Published: June 3, 2021

By: Adrian Dubose | LSU Manship School News Service

Mandatory kindergarten bill progresses
Rep. Jason Hughes

BATON ROUGE–A bill to make kindergarten mandatory in Louisiana passed the House 59-31 Thursday and will go back to the Senate for final consideration.

Senators will need to decide if they concur with a House amendment changing the birthdate for when children would become eligible.

“Education is the mortal enemy to poverty,” said Rep. Jason Hughes, D-Orleans. “It just makes sense because it is good for our children and because it is good for our state.”

In a floor debate that lasted an hour and 10 minutes, opposing arguments were unable to kill the bill and resulted in just that one change.

The original bill would have required children turning five by September 30 to start kindergarten that fall. Amendment 3887 by Rep. Thomas Pressly, R-Shreveport, moved up the eligibility to children with birth dates by March 31.

Pressly’s amendment passed 57-38.

If the Senate passes the bill before the session ends next Thursday, the bill will move to the governor’s desk to sign.

Hughes reported that as of 2019, 160,000 students in Louisiana could not read.

Read more at The Daily Star

Social media regulation bill fails in La. House Commerce Committee

FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo an iPhone displays the Facebook app in New Orleans.
FILE – In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo an iPhone displays the Facebook app in New Orleans.(Jenny Kane | AP)

Published: June 3, 2021

By: Ryan Nelsen | LSU Manship School News Wire

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Wire) – Sen. Jay Morris, a Republican from West Monroe, attempted to pass a social media regulation bill through the House Commerce Committee Thursday, but his attempt ended before it began.

“Six members, we don’t have a quorum,” said Allie King, the committee’s administrative assistant, after calling attendance for the 16-person committee.

“I’m shocked that there is not a quorum here today,” said Morris. “And it doesn’t look like I’m going to get a vote on this very important bill.”

The bill, which would have allowed users to sue companies like Facebook and Google if their posts were blocked, can no longer move forward in any capacity. Morris trudged forward and gave his prepared opening statement to the five Republican committee members and one Democrat who were present.

Seven Republicans and three Democrats were absent.

The bill would have allowed social media users to seek up to $75,000 in court if their religious or political posts were knowingly deleted or censored by a website.

“The means by which information is being distributed in this nation, and Louisiana, is going through a small handful of companies who decide what we should be able to see,” said Morris.

Conservatives have been upset with social media companies for some time, and their complaints escalated when Twitter and Facebook suspended President Donald Trump’s posts after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Read more at KALB

Here’s how Louisiana legislators plan to distribute tax revenue from sports betting

Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, spoke before the State Senate Wednesday about how to divide up money from sports gambling (Photo by Ryan Nelsen/LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: June 2, 2021

By: Ryan Nelsen | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE—Sports gambling is on its way to Louisiana, and legislators have a plan to divvy up the tax money.

Sen. Rick Ward, a Republican from Port Allen, passed a bill through the Senate with a 33-3 vote. Ward’s measure, Senate Bill 142, will work hand-in-hand with the final legislative rules for sports wagering that are still to be determined.

“I don’t know when the first deposits would happen,” said Ward. “There’s a provisional license to let this start as early as the fall.”

Ward added amendments to the bill during the floor meeting detailing just how the money will be distributed:

20% TO EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

The bill states that the Education Fund is not to exceed over $10 million in payout from gambling revenue on real sports events. Fantasy sports wagering, a separate type of betting that should be operational in the state before fall, will deposit all of its funds into early education.

10% TO THE PARISHES

The 55 parishes that approved sports wagering in 2020 will see some of the money return to them. Ten percent of what the state collects will be separated and given to parishes proportionately to the taxes pulled in.

Read more at BR Proud

Bill to improve infrastructure funding elicits emotional responses in Louisiana Senate

Sen. Rick Ward pushed for extending a portion of the state sales tax to pay for roads and bridges (Photo courtesy of the Louisiana Senate).

Published: June 2, 2021

By: Matthew Bennett | LSU Manship School News Service

Sen. Rick Ward (R-Port Allen) sat before the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday with tears in his eyes advocating a bill that he thinks could keep his loved ones from moving out of Louisiana.

After pulling out a large painting of his family to show his fellow representatives and choking on a few words, Ward said, “I know roads and infrastructure is not something to get emotional about, but that’s not the part I get emotional about. I don’t want to see them leave here. It’s time that we do something.”

The Senate Finance Committee passed the bill 7-4 Wednesday in a vote that also set off a lot of other emotions in the Legislature, especially from critics in both parties.

The controversy comes in that the bill, HB 514, would indefinitely extend a 0.45 percent sales tax that the Legislature passed in 2018 as a temporary stopgap to solve a budget crisis. The extension, which was tacked onto a marijuana tax bill late in the session, would keep that part of the sales tax from expiring in 2025 and dedicate the money from it to roads and bridges.

Ward repeatedly defended the bill as the most effective way to raise and commit state revenue to improving Louisiana’s infrastructure at a “four to one return on investment for construction dollars as we spend them.”

Ward said the bill tax would create $350 million per year directed only toward fixing roads and bridges.

If the Legislature kills the bill, the 0.45 percent sales tax would be lowered back down to 0.4 percent in 2025.

Read more at BR Proud

Tax relief for women advances

Published: June 2, 2021
By: Ryan Nelsen | LSU Manship School News Service

Three bills that focus on tax relief for women moved through a state Senate committee Wednesday.

The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee advanced the bills, which had already been approved by the House. The bills now head to the Senate floor.

House Bill 7, sponsored by New Orleans Democratic Rep. Aimee Freeman, would end state sales tax on feminine hygiene products and diapers for adults and children. Freeman has labeled the bill as “ending the pink tax,” as the financial burden of buying these products disproportionately affects women.

LIFT Louisiana, a women’s advocacy group, supported the bill, noting that Louisiana leads the nation in single-family households led by women. The group called the taxation of these products “an unnecessary and immoral financial burden.”

The bill is now in its fifth year in the legislature. It was originally carried by former Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans. The bill has support from groups on both sides of the aisle, including the Feminist Majority of Louisiana and Louisiana Right to Life.

“I believe this is part of healthcare for women and children, especially for those who live on a very tight budget,” said Freeman.

A concern voiced by state Sen. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales, was that the bill would cost the state $10.5 million in tax revenue.

Freeman responded: “To me, $10.5 million, which is only .01% of the entire budget, is a worthwhile exemption for the women and children of Louisiana.”

The state sales tax is currently 4.45%, but local parishes and cities add their own sales taxes on top of that. The committee amended the bill to give municipalities the option of enacting the exemption.

Read more at The Advocate