Edwards vetoes bills regarding tax breaks, fees and emergency elections 

    Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed three bills meant to provide financial relief to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and response. 

    He has also rejected a tax break for the oil industry, citing the cost and various technical issues, and a proposed set of changes to how Louisiana handles elections during an emergency, The Center Square reports. 

    HB29 would have created a severance tax exemption for certain oil wells. Supporters said the exemption could spur more industry investment, creating work for service companies that currently are struggling. Edwards noted that the legislation did not include a requirement to create jobs. He said no evidence was presented that the measure would create jobs or increase production.  

    “Lastly, this bill was one of several bills introduced in this most recent session unrelated to the ostensible and claimed reason for the session—COVID-19 response and hurricane recovery,” Edwards wrote in his veto message. “There will be a fiscal session of the Legislature in the Spring of 2021 where this plan and other tax measures can be fully debated and considered.”

    HB37 called for an income tax credit for bars and restaurants whose sales were harmed by the pandemic. Since the state government imposed tight restrictions on bars and restaurants as part of the effort to control the spread of the new coronavirus, lawmakers wanted to give those businesses a small boost.

    Edwards said he vetoed HB37 because he already had signed SB72. Though the latter bill gives a similar benefit to the same businesses, the details differ and the two bills cannot co-exist, he says. 

    In his veto message for SB18, which calls for reduced permit fees for alcohol manufacturers and retailers that temporarily closed during the pandemic, Edwards again cited SB72’s benefits for those same businesses.

    HB94 would have exempted a long list of businesses impacted by COVID-19 from paying license renewal fees during the declared state of emergency and for six months following the termination of the state of emergency. Edwards said the legislation is “well-intentioned” but “extremely vague.” 

    SB20 made changes to how lawmakers approve an emergency election plan, such as was used during this year’s elections due to COVID-19, that both Edwards and author Sen. Sharon Hewitt agree would be improvements over the current “cumbersome” process. But Edwards said the approval process envisioned in SB20 might be unconstitutional because it doesn’t require a public meeting. Read the full story for more details on Edwards’ vetoes.