‘LaPolitics’: Lawsuit challenges New Orleans booze tax; speculation swirls over Senate seat

A civil district court hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 8 to explore the constitutionality of what is being called a gallonage tax in New Orleans. The tax, according to critics, directly impacts alcoholic beverage dealers and indirectly touches consumers, restaurants and retailers. The lawsuit, which was originally brought by the Beer Industry League of Louisiana in December and later joined by the Louisiana Restaurant Association, actually seeks to invalidate two taxes in the city of New Orleans. Plaintiffs expect to move for a ruling on the other tax, a processing fee, soon after the Aug. 8 hearing. Attorneys for the associations are describing both taxes as “unconstitutional overreaches.” Judge Clare Jupiter has the case, which will first focus on the gallonage tax, which is imposed on alcohol based on the volume sold. The plaintiffs call it a “property tax” that violates state law, while the city contends its home rule charter exempts it from all current state and constitutional limits on taxation. It raises interesting questions about whether the 1921 version of the constitution guides the way for the city on this issue, or if the Legislature is vested solely with taxation authority. The so-called gallonage tax was adopted last year, went into effect in the spring and is currently being paid under protest. The other tax, which has been on the books for more than seven years, is actually a $1,000 processing fee for restaurants and other establishments that are required to obtain a liquor license. The fee is charged in addition to the cost of a license, which ranges between $135 and $500. Attorneys for the associations argue that state law specifically limits the amounts a municipality can charge for liquor license fees, and that the city is attempting to skirt those limitations by calling the $1,000 charge a “processing fee.”

—Sen. Dan Claitor, like many of his colleagues, is term limited. As a result there has been a great deal of chatter in Senate District 16 about who should run. The latest mumblings involve Ryan Theriot, a standout at LSU who later played shortstop and second base for the Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers and Giants. A group of political influencers are trying to get him to consider running in 2019. (Possibly the same group that wanted Theriot to jump into the open race for the Public Service Commission.)

They Said It: “I just want the community to quiet down. I don’t need for this to be stirred up.” — Clarence Mayor Tommy Evans, upon hearing the mounting complaints about his administration, in The Shreveport Times

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on https://www.facebook.com/LaPolitics?ref=hl Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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