Capitol Views: Senate OKs spending bill; showdown with House conservatives on tap

Capitol Views: Senate OKs spending bill; showdown with House conservatives on tap

With over $300 million restored that was cut by the House, the Senate passed the appropriations bill today, 39-0, setting up a showdown with the lower chamber. With minimal exceptions, Finance Chairman Sen. Jack Donahue fended off about a dozen amendments seeking to restore funding to a variety of deleted programs, from the Louisiana Center for Women and Government to stipends for certified teachers. The upper chamber considered the bill for about two hours.

The House might vote on concurring on Senate changes as early as this afternoon. If concurrence fails, the budget would go to a conference committee.

In Senate Finance Committee, some of the $268 million in one-time money was moved around and matched to nonrecurring expenses in order to comply with the "Geymann rule" restricting such funds. That is not expected to be good enough in the view of fiscal conservatives, who vow to fight the reinclusion of the funds. But momentum is moving toward using that money in order to stabilize a budget already under stress.

—It seems not a week has gone by that New Orleans legislators haven't expressed their grief and frustration over the newest horrific details of murders in the city. This week may have been a new low, with news of the arrest of a 13-year-old wearing an ankle monitor—with a 15-year-old accomplice—alleged to have gunned down a man sitting on his porch.

Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, cited the crime in getting the Senate to pass House Bill 1209 by Rep. Dee Richard, I-Thibodaux, to have MFP money follow expelled students into other behavior intervention programs, including in the juvenile justice system.

"Currently, students expelled just disappear," said Morrell, but with this bill "they will be put into educational structures that do not allow them to disappear."

Whether that stops the next 13-year-old wearing an ankle monitor from killing someone hangs over all such legislation.

—The Senate sent the Department of Revenue back in time by unanimously passing a bill to restore paper checks for income tax refunds after author Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, cited constituent and colleague complaints over transferring funds from state-issued debit cards.

"This was just ahead of its time," said Fannin in House committee.

The Department of Revenue was only able to resist passively, getting an amendment to sunset the option after three years, to which Fannin assented while pledging to continue to monitor the program in his committee. Taxpayers can also select to receive their refunds by direct deposit.

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