‘LaPolitics’: Fee bills piling up; Lawmakers get serious about judgments
As uncertainty clouds revenue forecasts, departments, agencies and boards are rushing to file dozens of fee proposals to drum up money for various needs and programs. Several bills have already surfaced—all for the regular session that convenes Monday. New or increased fees have been proposed for the Department of Environmental Quality; Department of Health; Department of Transportation and Development; Louisiana Tax Commission; State Police; sheriffs; constables; city marshals; the Board of Cosmetology; Board of Pharmacy; the 14th and 15th judicial district courts; and pretrial programs in DeSoto Parish. Trying to get ahead of the curve—and the potential media coverage of what some might want to call a money grab—Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Jack Montoucet recently made his case to the Baton Rouge Press Club. The department will be asking lawmakers to increase basic fishing licenses 42% and basic hunting licenses 33%. Montoucet told reporters it would be the first increases in 18 years.
—It has been three years since the state has paid legal judgments, and judicial interest has been running the entire time. The state owes $30 million in back judgments, mostly related to the Department of Transportation and Development. With a tight and drama-filled budget cycle around the corner, some lawmakers are eager to move the needle. Sen. Rick Ward, the chairman of the Judiciary A Committee, says more legislators are tuning into the issue and he stands ready to help forge a compromise, as needed, on the Senate side. Rep. Julie Stokes, for one, is pushing legislation for a judgment registry and additional language that would count what’s owed in annual financial reports. Sen. Dan Claitor also says he’s tinkering with a bill that creates a sort of prioritization system. “I’m really growing frustrated hearing from people who are waiting on these judgments,” he says.
They said it: “I won’t accuse my parents of present day child abuse, but I’ll just tell you—I remember numerous times in my life when I went and put on about five pairs of underwear before my dad came home.”—Congressman Garret Graves, on Facebook Live