Capitol Views: From budgeting to incentives, a hectic start to a big week

    “Well,” House Commerce Chairman Thomas Carmody said with a sigh. “This has been a long meeting.”

    That was shortly after 1 p.m., or four hours into a committee meeting that was convened at 9 a.m. While Carmody, R-Shreveport, probably wasn’t attempting to offer a read on the week ahead, he did so nonetheless.

    Attention-grabbing bills and controversial proposals will be put to the test by the regular session this week, and the action kicked off today with debates over the homestead exemption, cellphone use while driving, boycotts of Israel and the taxation of feminine hygiene products, to list a few of the measures heard.

    For Carmody’s House Commerce Committee, the serious time hog was HCR 3, which was sold to members as a set of amendments to the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) that would stabilize a controversial system and streamline engagement from local governments. Opponents, such as the administration of Gov. John Bel Edwards, labeled it as a roll-back of recent rules added to the process. Edwards has made those changes a priority for his administration, and they’ve provided local governments with more of a voice in how such tax incentives are awarded.

    Noting that his resolution produced “intense feelings on both sides,” Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, explained during his closing comments that he did not file the proposal to address any one event, such as the denial of ExxonMobil’s application by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. In response, the committee voted 8-7 to send the resolution too the House floor.

    Around the same time today, in the House Ways and Means Committee, a separate debate over HB 12, a constitutional amendment providing for a local option on the homestead exemption, many of the same themes surfaced.

    Calling the bill an “attack on the middle class, Rep. Jay Morris directed his argument to the author, Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge. “Do you support local decisions on industrial tax exemptions too?” asked Morris, R-Monroe. (The committee ultimately voted 9-3 against Carter’s bill.)

    As for the action on the budget, Associated Press reporter Melinda Deslatte’s dispatches have many politicos circling back to the spending game to take another look. On the Senate side, members of the Finance Committee are putting spending bills on hold until the House sends over a budget plan, she reported.

    Deslatte also offered up the following in her weekend column, which suggests a new budgeting regimen may be coming together in the lower chamber:

    “GOP members of the House Appropriations Committee are trying to determine if departments are socking away pots of money they don’t discuss, swapping out financing sources to boost their bottom lines or overestimating how much money they’re going to collect.”

    In related action:

    —Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, advanced his constitutional amendment to exempt feminine hygiene products and diapers from sales taxes.“If we think Viagra should be tax exempt,” he asked, “who’s to say diapers and tampons shouldn’t be?”

    —Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, likewise received approval for her legislation that would authorize public bodies to reject contracts held by companies that boycott Israel.

    Both the House and Senate were expected to convene this afternoon at 3 p.m.

    Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon on Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session. The report is also available to subscribers at LaPolitics.com.

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