Fortunately, state Sen. Bodi White came to his legislative senses long enough to declare one of the most ridiculous bills ever authored in our banana republic was dead prior to arriving on some Senate committee docket.
Given Louisiana’s ignominious history, that’s truly saying something.
Humiliation rankings aside, White had the whacky idea to suggest any municipality—a fancy word for city—residing in a parish with a population above 400,000 would be exempt from pretty much any parishwide tax, new or renewed, if voters in that city didn’t approve it at the ballot box.
For the record, the only parishes meeting White’s population criteria are Jefferson and East Baton Rouge. I have no clue if his intention was to drag Jefferson into this act of folly, or if he simply forgot to add the couple of 10,000s necessary to remove our southern friends from the zaniness.
Regardless, here’s what the Republican from Central—as well as a man who wanted to be both the mayor of Baton Rouge as well as the president of our parish—was intending: Let’s say, for example, a BREC parishwide property tax manages to win approval despite a majority of voters in Zachary or, I don’t know … a new city of St. George rejecting it. In that case, the tax would pass but property owners in Zachary or St. George would be exempt from paying it.
Of course, with White being a flag-waving, blue-blooded American and all, this foolishness would not apply to any taxes benefitting first responders, like his good buddy Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.
With the measure forever remaining in the land of misfit bills, we’ll never know for certain, but I’ve got a 50-burger that says if this thing ever became actual law then suburban “municipality” voters would 1) reject every tax possible and then 2) demand service from BREC or whatever agency, declaring, “We pay taxes, too!”
Seriously, you gotta love Baton Rouge. We are, after all, BR!
Hilarity aside, raise your hand if you can even begin to count the potential problems with this half-baked proposal.
For starters, how such a measure could survive judicial scrutiny is a head-scratcher. The way tax measures are written here in the real world is that a government entity wanting our money determines how much of it they need to build a park, library or mosquito abatement headquarters, and then some wonk with a calculator deciphers the sales tax or millage rate necessary to hit that number within the life of the tax. To do that, however, the brainiac doing the ciphering needs a fairly critical piece of information: How many people will actually be paying the tax.
That’s a pretty hard calculation if that number isn’t known until after the tallying of the votes.
In other words, if White’s bill somehow became reality, it would be pretty much impossible to write a legally legit tax proposal for voters to approve or reject—particularly for our much-loved project-specific measures, and especially if the plan was to bond any portion of the bounty.
Then again, maybe—just maybe—that’s the crazy genius behind the idea.
Yet, and this is the part that floors me, White says the problematic lunacy isn’t the reason for his abandonment. No, he’s turning away from his legislative child because, as he told Daily Report, he “doesn’t feel like fighting that fight.”
Here’s an idea for White: Author a bill requiring any state tax proposal to first get voter approval, but … any municipality or parish that rejects the tax—even if it passes the statewide vote—is exempt from paying it. How’s that taste?
Interestingly, White is the same guy who wants to restrict the voice of local government agencies when it comes to the exempting of their tax dollars through ITEP. In other words, he wants voters to have more say in the taxes they don’t want to pay, while simultaneously muting the voice of local government when the state decides to give their tax dollars away.
This is fun and all, but the bigger question is this: Why do so many local state legislators feel the need to thrust the state into the cacophony of Baton Rouge’s political battles?
The anti-St. George crowd is having a field day with White’s ill-fated bill, but at least he ultimately made the wise decision to kill the thing. The same, sadly, can’t be said for state Sen. Yvonne Colomb and her ridiculous bill to change the incorporation rules in the middle of the St. George game.
Hell, we wouldn’t even be talking about a St. George incorporation—at least not in the movement’s infancy—if former state lawmakers by the name of Kip Holden and Sharon Weston Broome, who both went on to become mayor, didn’t drag the Legislature into the very hyper-Baton Rouge debate over the creation of independent school districts.
Admittedly, with the ridiculous way Louisiana does it political business, state action was a necessity, but lawmakers should simply rubber-stamp whatever is necessary and let the people of East Baton Rouge Parish figure it out.
BREC is another entity where state legislators love to inject themselves. Granted, BREC is an independent taxing authority created by the state, but does there really need to be an iota of state government involvement with the affairs of the Baton Rouge parks and recreation department?
Of course not, but that didn’t stop state Rep. Barbara Carpenter from filing a bill that would essentially prevent the Baton Rouge zoo from ever relocating, or demanding in a resolution in the Legislature that the Louisiana legislative auditor investigate BREC. And it didn’t stop state Sen. Regina Barrow from writing a bill that would change the makeup of the BREC board.
For those who delight in screaming about state legislators from north Baton Rouge meddling in BREC’s business, please remember the not-too-distant past antics of our friend Mr. White. If you’ll recall, it was White who annually would threaten to have the state create an independent parks system for then-newly incorporated Central unless BREC acquiesced to his wishes about a park in that city.
The takeaway from all this, I guess, is that much of our Baton Rouge delegation believes there aren’t any state issues worth their time and energy. Glad to know they believe state government is a smooth-running bureaucratic machine.
Nonetheless, here’s a memo to state legislators: Please stay the hell out of Baton Rouge business. We can screw things up just fine on our own, thank you.