Below are email news releases from a variety of sources who were involved in the legislative process such as the Jindal administration, Jefferson Parish John Young, New Orleans Mayor Landrieu, the Flagship Coalition, American Cancer Society, the Coalition For a Tobacco-Free Louisiana, Southeast Super-Region Committee and Senator David R. Heitmeier (who has completed his first legislative term)
But, first, here is an excerpt from John Maginnis from his Fax Weekly
Lawmakers leave the Capitol with not a whole lot to show for a conflict-driven, plot-twisting, at times a bit harrowing session, except for a balanced budget, without devastating cuts, tax increases or contingencies. For all that wasn't done, legislators did what they were supposed to do in a fiscal session, and without the doomsday scenarios attached to the alleged fiscal cliff of $1.6 billion.
The cliff was not so difficult to scale because it was never that steep. Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, a consistent critic of the continuation budget on which the deficit figure was based, put the true shortfall significantly lower, once the growth factor was eliminated.
The true gap was filled largely with a balance of spending cuts and cash pulled from dozens of dedicated funds and other pots of money, not all of which Fannin himself knew about until last week.
The stage was set for a classic budget showdown of the House against the governor and the Senate, like last year. The new Geymann rule, restricting the use of one-time money, seemed to give the advantage to the House, which had cut the governor's budget by over $200 million.
Here's where it became obvious that while the state had a budget problem, it did not have a cash problem. The administration made available to the Senate Finance Committee more one-time money, including $55 million in reimbursed hurricane recovery funds, to restore the House cuts. Senate staff worked around the House's one-time money limit by matching those funds to one-time expenditures.
House leaders accepted the plan, averting a showdown, and the House concurred in Senate changes, 101-0.
The House takes credit for making the governor's budget fiscally responsible and for leading by example by not adding member amendments. The Senate got to come to the rescue of spending-cut victims. The governor did not get his prison sales or the use of tobacco money before the TOPS constitutional amendment is approved by voters, but he had a comfortable fall-back position all along.
Still, Fannin had a problem with how the matter was resolved.
"I'm not troubled they put $200 million back in," he said. "I'm troubled we found all that new money in the Senate."
He was not the first legislator in this session to complain about the governor's office holding back on information.
The below legislation from the Governor’s package was approved during the 2011 Regular Legislative Session.
Improving Outcomes in Higher Education
HB 549 by Speaker Jim Tucker – GRAD Act 2.0 - strengthens the GRAD Act contracts negotiated between the Board of Regents and each higher education institution in fall 2010 in three ways. It prioritizes the key Student Success metrics—graduation rates, retention rates, and percent completers—and make them required for successful performance on contract targets. Additionally, it grants operational autonomies in purchasing, personnel, facilities, and investment in a three-tiered structure based on performance. Capacity to manage these autonomies is determined by the Division of Administration, and for higher level autonomies require the approval of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. Finally, it improves data and transparency by adding a cost-performance analysis of resources and outcomes to the Board of Regents’ annual report on GRAD Act institutional progress. The bill also standardizes, expands, and coordinates student-tracking systems of course credits to facilitate on-time graduation, articulation, and transfers.
HB 526 by Representative Joel Robideaux standardizes community and technical college tuition to ensure equal access to two-year programs in every parish. The Louisiana Community and Technical College System has standardized services across parishes so that community and technical colleges are offering comparable services to every student, but tuition varies by geography based on the age of the institution. With this law, community colleges will have the authority to raise tuition to the highest rate as of July 1, 2011; technical colleges will have the authority to raise tuition over three years to $2,000 or roughly 55 percent of the average Pell Grant, which is still lower than the 60 percent SREB average. In addition, the bill allows LCTCS to adopt a common schedule of tuition and fees so that not only is tuition the same at each school, but each credit hour costs the same, too.
SB 53 and SB 52 by Senator John Alario boosts the constitutionally protected funding of a vital merit-based college access tool, the TOPS Scholarship program. It does this by redirecting 75 percent of the annual Tobacco Settlement payment to the state to the TOPS Fund, freeing up the equivalent amount, or roughly $43 million per year, in state general fund to protect higher education and healthcare.
Increasing Education Options for Students
SB 43 by Senator Jack Donahue encourages the expansion of high-performing charter operators by enabling long-term planning. It allows a charter authorizer to waive technical restrictions on when a charter may open following approval, allowing charter operators to receive authorization for multiple charter schools at the same time to be opened over a number of years. This allows high-quality operators to plan long-term and benefit from economies of scale. These same technical changes also prevent mid-year disruption of services to students should a school need to change operators during the school year due to unforeseen problems.
HB 421 by Representative Steve Carter creates a mutually beneficial relationship between Louisiana businesses and charter schools—a Business-Charter Partnership—by allowing, in exchange for a gift or free use of land or a facility, the major renovation of an existing facility, or major donation of technology, preferred enrollment of up to 50 percent of school seats for dependents of company employees and a minority percentage of the charter school’s board seats. Individual businesses or groups of businesses could apply to open a new school, or in collaboration with a school district, convert an existing school. This partnership is a boon for economic development and public education in three ways: It empowers communities looking for a way to attract businesses to their parishes. It gives school districts, which can also authorize charter schools, a way to involve the business community in public education. And it provides charter schools, which often face significant difficulties when trying to find a building in which to operate, a new tool to address facility concerns.
Encouraging Business Investment
SB 63 by Sen. Murray renews and extends the commercial historic rehabilitation tax, which allows taxpayers rehabilitating a historic structure located in a downtown development or cultural product district to earn a state income and corporation franchise tax credit on up to 25 percent of rehabilitation costs. This legislation extends the sunset on the tax credit from January 1, 2012 to January 1, 2016.
SB 72 by Senator Mike Michot renews and extends the Quality Jobs program for six years. The Quality Jobs program is a powerful incentive for job creation, which provides up to a six percent rebate on annual payroll expenses for up to 10 years and either a four percent sales/use tax rebate on capital expenditures or an investment tax credit equal to 1.5 percent of qualifying.
HB 348 by Representative Walt Leger extends and improves the residential historic rehabilitation tax credit, which allows homeowners rehabilitating historic or blighted homes to earn a state income tax credit on up to 25 percent of rehabilitation costs. In addition to extending the sunset of the tax credit from December 31, 2012 to January 1, 2016, the bill enacts several improvements that make the tax credit more accessible to homeowners. It also lowers the minimum rehabilitation costs to qualify from $20,000 to $10,000, allows any homeowner to access the 25 percent credit regardless of income level, and raises the credit for blighted homes over fifty years old to 50 percent of rehabilitation costs.
SB 135 by Senator Dan Claitor renews and enhances the Research and Development Tax Credit. The Research and Development Tax Credit program provides up to a 40 percent refundable tax credit to businesses conducting research and development in Louisiana. This bill extends the program for another six years and converts the refundable tax credits, in order to deliver the incentive more quickly to companies.
SB 134 by Senator Dan Claitor renews and enhances the Technology Commercialization Credit and Jobs Program. The Technology Commercialization Credit and Jobs Program provides a 40 percent refundable tax credit for companies that invest in the commercialization of Louisiana technology and a six percent payroll rebate for the creation of new, direct jobs. This bill extends the program for another six years and converts the refundable tax credits for technology commercialization expenses, in order to deliver the incentive more quickly to companies.
SB 123 by Senator Danny Martiny enhance the Digital Interactive Media Tax Credit. The incentive provides a 25 percent transferable tax credit for qualified production expenditures in Louisiana and a 35 percent transferable tax credit for Louisiana resident labor expenditures. This bill increases the attractiveness of the incentive by giving companies the option of taking a refundable credit or a rebate equal to 85 percent of the face value of the credit.
Keeping Louisiana Communities Safe
HB 55 by Representative Ledricka Thierry prohibits certain sex offenders from using or accessing social networking websites, chat rooms and peer-to-peer networks. This legislation criminalizes the accessing or using of such social media by registered sex offenders who: 1) were previously convicted of indecent behavior with juveniles, pornography involving juveniles, computer-aided solicitation of a minor or video voyeurism; or 2) were previously convicted of a sex offense in which the victim of that sex offense was a minor. Whoever commits this crime will, upon first conviction, be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned for up to ten years. Upon a second or subsequent conviction, they will be fined up to $20,000 and imprisoned for five-20 years.
HB 86 by Representative Bodi White will amend the sexual battery, second-degree sexual battery, oral sexual battery and molestation of a juvenile statutes to enhance the penalty for committing these crimes against such vulnerable victims, and establishes a new penalty of 25-99 years at hard labor for committing one of these crimes on these individuals. .
HB 49 by Representative Walt Leger cracks down on human trafficking. Currently, our human trafficking statutes criminalize the actions of the human trafficker, but they do not address a person who knowingly facilitates the crime. This legislation will enable the equal punishment of a person who knowingly helps, aides or abets a human trafficker with the current punishment for the human trafficker. Also, this legislation expands the type of actions that put a criminal under the human trafficking statutes, including the advertisement of a child for sexual purposes.
HB 131 by Representative Ricky Templet works to ensure sex offenders comply with their registration requirements. Currently, a sex offender is required to get a driver’s license or a state identification card which states “sex offender” on it in bold orange letters. This legislation makes it a violation of a sex offender’s registration requirements if they fail to get a driver’s license or identification card with “sex offender” labeled on it, are in possession of identification that is altered with the intent to defraud or if they are in possession of counterfeit identification.
HB 12 by Representative Ricky Templet criminalizes fake bath salts and synthetic marijuana. Currently, when a specific chemical compound of synthetic marijuana or bath salts is criminalized, criminal drug manufactures change the chemical makeup of the drug in order to make a legal compound. This legislation seeks to put a stop to this cycle. It creates and criminalizes base chemical groups of synthetic Cannabinoids and Cathinones by adding those substances to Schedule I of the Controlled Dangerous Substance Act, and any manipulation or addition to these base chemical groups will be criminalized as well.
HB 94 by Representative Kay Katz transfers the Missing and Exploited Children Information Clearinghouse from the Department of Children and Family Services to the State Police, providing real-time, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, coordination between the National Crime Information Center and the Missing and Exploited Children Information database. This will help assist child crime victims, including those who are victims of human trafficking.
HB 636 by Representative Hoffman requires abortion facilities to post coerced abortion prevention signs and improves the availability of information online for informed consent laws. This bill requires outpatient abortion facilities to post a sign in each patient admission area, waiting room, and patient consulting room, outlining legal rights women have regarding abortion as well as a website address with information resources for alternatives to abortions. It also requires abortion facilities to inform individuals of the Department of Health and Hospital’s abortion alternatives and informed consent website when an inquiry is made regarding an abortion.
HB 106 by Rep. Helena Moreno will increase public safety by requiring providers of home incarceration services to issue reports to the Department of Corrections on the offenders under their supervision. This will allow the department to track the use of home incarceration and determine whether it produces any benefits to our criminal justice system.
HB 415 by Rep. Joseph Lopinto creates the process to allow probation and parole officers to punish probationers and parolees with administrative sanctions for technical violations of their supervision conditions. This proposal will help reduce recidivism and ensure better compliance with the conditions of probation and parole, which will increase public safety and save money.
SB 202 by Sen. Elbert Guillory enhances the pardon and parole process to ensure members of the Pardon Board and Parole Board are equipped with the tools they need to make proper clemency decisions. This law adds the warden or deputy warden of the institution in which an offender is housed as an ex officio member of the Pardon Board when that offender applies for clemency. This also enhances the Parole Board by requiring the members to complete eight hours of annual training. Finally, this legislation authorizes the Department of Corrections to establish a validated risk and needs assessment tool, which will be used to guide the department, parole board and agents of the department in determining supervision management and strategies for offenders as well as case planning and treatment decisions to address criminal risk factors and reduce an offender’s chance of recidivating.
Investing in I-49 North
HB 370 by Representative Jane Smith bonds out $7.5 million from the Unclaimed Property Fund in order to invest the estimated $60 million needed to construct one of the two remaining segments for I-49 North. The $60 million will be put towards the funding of the 4.25-mile “J Segment” – from MLK Boulevard to LA 1 – which will leave only one mile of the interstate left to complete. Specifically, this legislation will expand the purposes for using the Unclaimed Property Leverage Fund by allowing bonds to be issued by the State Bond Commission, and thus provide maximum flexibility in dedicating critical funds toward the completion of I-49 North. I-49’s continued expansion provides a critical link in our nation’s interstate system, facilitating trade and tourism.
Supporting Louisiana Veterans
HB 143 by Rep. Nick Lorusso provides death benefits for the families of 32 Louisiana National Guardsmen who lost their lives and two disability benefits for Guardsmen who have been injured dating back to September 11, 2001. The payment of a lump sum of $250,000 for each guardsman’s beneficiary and $100,000 for each totally and permanently disabled guardsman– means a commitment of $8.2 million from the state included in the budget.
Making Government more Efficient
SB 269 by Senator Neil Riser streamlines the state’s disparate housing agencies, including the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency (LHFA), into one Louisiana Housing Corporation that would oversee all housing funds in the state, uniting almost 30 separate programs currently managed by five organizations. Creating a new, unified Louisiana Housing Corporation will include the reductions of staffing needs and elimination of multiple boards, while better identifying housing needs and developing policies and plans to meet those needs around the state. Specifically, the corporation will be comprised of the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency as well as disaster recovery programs funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants as designated by the Governor. The unified structure for housing programs will also streamline operations, ensuring that all programs operate within a high level of accountability.
HB 639 by Smiley abolishes various outdated state boards and commissions. In some cases the legislation combines the functions of similar boards or commissions. This legislation eliminates boards and commissions because the board or commission was never fully formed, or the board or commission is no longer serving the purpose for which it was created.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu
As the state legislative session closed Thursday, the Landrieu administration announced the Orleans delegation passed an overwhelming majority of the City’s legislative agenda. Mayor Landrieu traveled to Baton Rouge nearly every Wednesday during the legislative session to meet with area lawmakers and state leaders about the City’s priorities. City Council members and local board chairs often joined the effort.
“The City of New Orleans had a very successful session—one which will provide new revenue for our City budget, one that provides new funding for our New Orleans East Hospital and a key drainage project and one that helps move our recovery forward by extending tax credits for projects like the Saenger Theatre,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “I would like to thank the entire Orleans delegation, especially our floor leaders Senator Ed Murray and Representative Walt Leger, whose leadership and hard work have delivered results for our residents and businesses.”
The City and delegation also lobbied successfully against a series of bills and resolutions designed to strip New Orleans of resources and funding. Chief among them were efforts to slow down the $1.2 billion University Medical Center project in Mid City. The delegation fought off House Concurrent Resolution 59 by Rep. Cameron Henry which would have require full legislative approval of the UMC business plan, significantly slowing down the project’s start date. The Landrieu administration also lobbied against the failed merger of SUNO and UNO and lobbied for protecting an additional Orleans-based House seat in the redistricting process.
Below is a summary of key legislative victories that were part of the City’s agenda.
EASTERN NEW ORLEANS HOSPITAL & TIF
The number one legislative priority for the City was to gain new capital outlay funding for the redevelopment on a full-service hospital in New Orleans East. Over $8 million was secured through the capital outlay process in House Bill 2, $3.13 million in priority 2 funding can be used this year to finish planning and begin work. The additional $5 million in priority 5 funding will be available in future years. The Administration also supported House Bill 353 by Rep. Jeff Arnold which will help provide stable leadership for the Hospital Service District Board and allows the hospital to move forward, without delay. Urgent care services return to the former Methodist site next month, with the full hospital slated to open in the fall of 2013. SB 237 by Sen. Cynthia Willard-Lewis also promotes economic development as part of the Lake Forest special tax district (TIF) by removing the ability for the district to levy any additional sales tax.
CASINO SUPPORT SERVICES
House Bill 516 by Rep. Walt Leger establishes a stable and sustainable method for the City to receive its legally obligated reimbursement from the State for the direct and indirect expenses it incurs to support Harrah’s Casino, including fire, police, EMS, and sanitation. This legislation solves the problem, once and for all, so the City and State do not have to continue to haggle each year. This critical funding, $1.8 to 3.6 million annually, would come from the $74.1 million or more in state revenue generated by Harrah’s Casino in gaming taxes. If signed into law, this bill would provide an annual reimbursement to the City for the cost of providing services, without the need to seek annual appropriation from the legislature. Additionally, the delegation was able to secure $3.6 million for casino support services in House Bill 1, the state’s appropriations bill for FY 2011 which begins in July.
In a joint request with Jefferson Parish, the City was able to secure $1.8 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding which will be leveraged to assist in widening the drainage culverts in the Monticello Canal to mitigate widespread neighborhood flooding in Carrollton and Uptown New Orleans. The Monticello Canal divides the Hollygrove neighborhood in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish.
STATE HISTORIC TAX CREDITS
Senate Bill 63 by Sen. Ed Murray and House Bill 348 by Rep. Walt Leger extend historic tax credit programs for commercial and residential structures respectively. Senate Bill 63 extends the sunset date to January 1, 2016 for claiming a credit against taxes for eligible costs and expenses incurred during the rehabilitation of a historic structure located in a downtown development or cultural product district. The measure promotes the revitalization of historic buildings in downtowns and cultural districts statewide. For every dollar spent, these buildings push $3.22 into the economy once returned into commerce. The Saenger Theatre is just one example of many projects in New Orleans currently relying on the extension of commercial historic tax credits. House Bill 348 increases the amount of the tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic residential structures and extends the taxable periods in which the tax credit applies. Both bills are vital for the City’s economic development, historic preservation, and blight-fighting initiatives.
NEW ORLEANS PUBLIC BELT RAILROAD REFORM
Following a scathing report by the Legislative Auditor in 2010 regarding the operations and management of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, Mayor Landrieu took decisive action to reform the public agency from top to bottom. House Bill 356 by Rep. Jared Brossett changes the composition of the Board of Commissioners and reduces terms lengths in accordance with the recommendations of the current NOPB Board of Commissioners made in May. The sweeping changes in the governance structure of the public entity include reducing term length from 16-years to 4-years and reducing the Commission from 16 to 9 members plus the Mayor serving as President. Additionally, appointments will now come from recommendations of organizations that currently exist rather than the board self-appointing members for seats like the Cotton Exchange which no longer exist. Identical changes will be brought to the City Council so that the governance changes will be consistent in both state and city laws.
House Bill 182 by Rep. Girod Jackson extends the City’s ability to use design-build contracting for an additional year, through July 10, 2012. This streamlined contracting process, first used in the state after Hurricane Katrina, was a powerful tool to fast-track several capital recovery projects already underway, such as the New Orleans East and Algiers regional libraries.
TAX SALE RENOVATION SAFEGUARDS
House Bill 355 by Rep. Jared Brossett is an additional tool to fight blight in New Orleans. It provides a method for a tax sale purchaser who renovates blighted property to be reimbursed if the original owner seeks to buy back the property within the current redemptive period. Often, those who purchase blighted or vacant properties in a tax sale will wait to make improvements until title is transferred which can be from 18 to 36 months after a tax sale, thus still leaving the properties out of compliance with housing codes. This bill incentivizes tax sale purchasers to make renovations or to bring properties up to code in the interim period by allowing for reimbursements of up to $3000 per property per year should the original owner seek to buy back the property.
SUMMONS IN LIEU OF ARREST
HB 272 by Rep. Wesley Bishop requires a police officer to issue a summons in lieu of arrest for a misdemeanor or for a felony charge of theft or illegal possession of stolen things when the value is $500 or more but less than $1000. This will free up officers, jail space, and resources to deal with violent crime and more serious offenders. Other municipal efforts to reduce the increase the use of summonses have proven successful in reducing the size of the Orleans Parish prison population and reducing associated jail costs, as well as increasing the efficiency of NOPD officers in the field.
HANO PEACE OFFICERS
Senate Bill 78 by Sen. Ed Murray allows HANO to commission “peace officers” to patrol HANO properties. These officers shall exercise regular police powers of the state granted to law enforcement officers, including but not limited to, enforcement of municipal and traffic laws, issuance of municipal summons and citations with respect to criminal and other offenses affecting the protection of persons, properties, or interests relating to HANO. The law also outlines that HANO's peace officers shall be P.O.S.T. certified in accordance to the Peace Officers Standard and Training Law.
BROWNFIELDS TAX CREDIT
Senate Bill 40 by Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell authorizes the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to once again grant transferable tax credits for the investigation or remediation of hazardous waste "brownfields" sites on and after July 1, 2011 through December 31, 2013, clarifies that the credit may be granted to any public or private "entity" whether taxable or non-taxable, and specifically authorizes credits for the remediation of public parks, playgrounds and other recreational areas. The tax credit program could prove to be useful in the remediation of hazardous materials in New Orleans.
WHAT LEGISLATORS AND COUNCILMEMBERS ARE SAYING:
Sen. Ed Murray: "I am extremely pleased to have served as the Mayor's floor leader in the Senate. The bills passed this session will help in continuing to revitalize our city by providing additional financing for major healthcare facilities, encourage historic and residential revitalization through tax credit incentives and aid in the continuing battle against blight and crime."
Rep. Walt Leger: “I'm incredibly proud that our delegation was able to secure funding for important healthcare and flood protection projects in this difficult fiscal environment. Furthermore, we were able to ensure the extension and expansion of important historic rehabilitation tax credits for major commercial redevelopment and residential construction that will create thousands of jobs and grow our economy."
Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell: "Additional funding for the hospital in New Orleans East has been a top priority for the Orleans Parish Delegation and the Landrieu Administration. Capital Outlay dollars are finite and in order to deliver on this priority for citizens of New Orleans, particularly New Orleans East, Gentilly and the Lower Ninth Ward, some difficult decisions had to be made. Some of what we wanted had to go unfunded so we can pay for what we needed.”
Sen. Cynthia Willard-Lewis: “The HB2 allocation of $3.13 million in priority 2, together with the trailing $5 million is an important supplement to the $40 million that I initially brought to Methodist Hospital while on the City Council. This was my number one priority, and I moved other projects around to find the $2 million in cash. Now let’s start building a hospital for our great citizens!"
Rep. Wesley Bishop: "The bill (HB 272) to provide summonses in lieu of arrests provides our criminal justice system, particularly our police officers, with an additional tool in the war on crime. It free up jail space, man hours and other resources that can now be directed towards more serious offenders. I am also proud of a resolution I authored to request DOTD to place signs denoting businesses (gas, food, and lodging) at interstate exits in New Orleans. It will serve as an incentive to lure business owners by providing advertisement to passengers traveling through New Orleans East with a focus on directing traffic to the area.”
Rep. Jared Brossett: “We had a very successful session. The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad board structure was in dire need of reform. The old board structure lacked transparency and is a relic of the early days of the last century. In bringing about legislative changes, I hope to see greater management and accountability. I am also proud to author HB 355. This piece of legislation is just another proactive effort to remove blight and place properties back into commerce quickly. This incentivizes a tax sale purchaser to renovate blighted properties and be reimbursed if the original owner seeks to buy back the property from the tax sale purchaser. Lastly, I authored HB 34 to create a Critical Incident Mapping & Planning System. This is the first statewide critical incident planning and mapping system of its kind for all public buildings in this state to assist first responders when responding to a disaster or emergency. The system will instantly provide critical facility information about all school buildings, including building maps, evacuation procedures, tactical plans, hazardous materials information and more to first responders immediately during an emergency. I appreciate working along with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security in successfully passing this important piece of legislation for public safety."
Rep. Austin Badon: “The legislative session focused on the Louisiana family. We made great strides to keep workers in our state and we also made great strides on education. The legislature enacted a sound budget. Even though it is somewhat tough, it is fiscally responsible in regard to the revenue interests of our state. The legislature was able to stop the sale of valuable assets and the merger of our historic universities. The Louisiana student is in a better position to compete in a global environment. We did a lot without putting the burden on the backs of our citizens.”
City Council President Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson: "I was privileged to be in Baton Rouge with the legislature yesterday to personally thank the Louisiana delegation. During this legislative session, representatives from around the state have done great things for our City. The Orleans delegates have been stalwarts for New Orleans."
Councilmember-at-Large Arnie Fielkow: “I would like to congratulate the New Orleans legislative delegation for their lobbying efforts in Baton Rouge, especially for securing funding to rebuild Methodist Hospital. Basic and necessary services, such as hospitals, should be available to all citizens who returned to New Orleans. For nearly six years, residents in New Orleans East have had to drive as long as 30 minutes before reaching a hospital, and that is simply unacceptable. I look forward to seeing Methodist Hospital re-opened and the continued redevelopment of New Orleans East.”
Councilmember Susan Guidry, District A: “I commend the top executives of Orleans and Jefferson parishes, Mayor Landrieu and President Young, for seizing an early opportunity to forge a new relationship of regional cooperation that will result in badly needed improvements to the Monticello Canal on their border. The Orleans and Jefferson delegations are also to be commended for presenting a united front to press for this important drainage project, which will benefit lower Jefferson and the Hollygrove neighborhood in New Orleans.”
Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, District C: “I commend the New Orleans delegation for leading the successful effort to extend the state historic tax credits. As we all know, historic preservation is economic development and this extension means that nearly $850 million in investments in downtown New Orleans are no longer on hold. Many projects in District “C” and throughout the City were temporarily in jeopardy pending the extension of the tax credits. Now, projects like the Saenger Theater can continue to move towards completion.”
Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, District D: "I appreciate the efforts of our delegation to accomplish the city's agenda. The sacrifice that our delegation makes, away from friends and family for three months, is something I know well. Welcome home and great job."
Councilmember Jon Johnson, District E: “On behalf of the residents of New Orleans East and the surrounding communities, we are very happy that our legislative delegation, led by Senators Cynthia Willard Lewis and J.P. Morrell, were able to secure over 8 million dollars toward continuing our efforts to bring a full service hospital to eastern New Orleans. These funds will go a long way toward attaining the capital necessary to reopen Methodist Hospital in New Orleans east. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the Eastern New Orleans Legislative Delegation, led by Cynthia Willard Lewis, the Landrieu Administration and the Hospital Service District to obtain the remainder of the funds for this most worthwhile project.”
Jefferson Parish President John Young
JEFFERSON PARISH DELEGATION PASSES LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE
We can report the passage of the five legislative bills that Jefferson Parish Government pursued or supported. This year’s legislative package championed by our Jefferson Parish Legislators strengthens ethics, saves the parish money, helps to counteract insurance fraud, and provides economic incentives in the maritime industry. The bills were passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, sent to the Governor for his signature, and four are now Acts of the 2011 Regular Session. A fifth bill, by Sen. John Alario, is on the Governor’s desk pending his approval.
House Bill 107 (Act No. 8), authored by Rep. Kirk Talbot, changed the prior law so Jefferson Parish and other local governments which are self-insured will be able to report cases of possible fraud to the appropriate state-level enforcement agencies.
A companion bill to one originally introduced by Sen. Julie Quinn, House Bill 137 (Act No. 9) clarifies that all local governments are authorized to negotiate “flat fees” in lieu of commissions for their property and casualty insurance coverage. Jefferson Parish has been doing this since 2006, and the dollar amount of annual savings for the Parish and its two Parish hospitals is estimated to be $1.5 million.
House Bill 331 (Act No. 37) focuses on local ethics ordinances. This bill by Rep. Tony Ligi clarifies that individual ethics codes may be enacted locally and at the state level, and that neither will conflict with the other. Although Jefferson Parish already is authorized by its Home Rule Charter to enact a local ethics code, this clarification is significant to the proposals voters will consider on October 22nd to create an Office of Inspector General for Jefferson Parish.
Rep. Tom Willmott’s House Bill 284 (Act No. 36) keeps confidential the answers to the tests administered by the Jefferson Parish Personnel Department. Prior to this revision of law, only answers to questions on fire and police civil service exams were protected from disclosure.
OCCUPATIONAL LICENSE TAX
Senate Bill 41 by Sen. Alario is intended to define business activity for purposes of the occupational license tax. When signed by the Governor, the measure will benefit manufacturers and fabricators doing work in the Harvey Canal and offshore areas.
NEW REGISTRAR OF VOTERS OFFICE
Louisiana’s 7th largest municipality will have its own full-service voter registration office. Registrar of Voters Dennis DiMarco reports this satellite office will bear no additional cost to our citizen taxpayers. Anticipated to open in August, the office will be located at 408 Minor Street in the Rivertown area.
Senator David Heitmeier
The 2011 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature ended today. I am pleased to report that the important work of the Legislature was completed and the impact of the budget shortfall on Healthcare and Education was not as harsh as had been predicted.
Positive legislation included approval of the Grad Act 2 helping state colleges and universities deal which ongoing budget issues. As important as healthcare and education are to our quality of life, good-paying jobs for our state residents is equally important. Several bills, SB134, SB123 and HB 348 are pending signature by the governor to enhance job opportunities. Just as we have turned Louisiana into “Hollywood South” in the film industry creating jobs, we are enhancing technology and digital media rebates to create jobs in those industries.
I do believe that programs to jump-start certain industries are important but I am researching legislation to provide checks and balances that taxpayer dollars invested in incentive programs are generating the returns promised in new job creation and job retention.
On the public safety front, SB182 and HB55 prohibits sex offenders from establishing internet-based social accounts and participating in chat rooms or peer to peer networks. HB12 adds certain synthetic substances to the controlled and dangerous list of drugs.
In Healthcare, we have again adopted legislation to bring more federal dollars to West Jefferson and East Jefferson Hospitals to help them cost of caring for needy patients. I was honored to receive a standing ovation from my colleagues for my ongoing healthcare efforts. The recently approved budget includes $400 million in total UPL monies from the federal government helping to cover Medicaid costs.
Congratulations to Clare Messina of Algiers, who participated in the 2011 Legislative Youth Advisory Council.
In our next newsletter, we will cover the capital projects for our district included in this year’s budget.
Senator David R. Heitmeier, O.D.
Louisiana’s Flagship Coalition
Louisiana’s Flagship Coalition is pleased with the passage of its top priority of the recently-completed regular legislative session — House Bill 549, also known as the GRAD Act 2.0 legislation.
HB 549 by Speaker of the House Jim Tucker and numerous House co-authors builds upon the original GRAD Act legislation passed during the 2010 legislative session. The bill provides greater flexibility to save money by granting higher education institutions operational autonomies in personnel, purchasing, facilities and investment in a three-tiered arrangement. HB 549 also strengthens accountability by prioritizing student success metrics such as graduation rates, retention rates and completers and also improves transparency through enhanced data collection, student monitoring and student tracking.
The bill cleared the Louisiana House of Representatives on May 11 by a vote of 98-1. Final State Senate passage occurred on June 20 by a vote of 37-1. The House rejected the Senate’s amendments, putting the bill in conference committee Wednesday. The conference committee’s report was approved Thursday by both houses.
“The GRAD Act 2.0 legislation fit perfectly with the Flagship Coalition’s mission to bring fundamental, common-sense business principles to LSU and other universities,” said Flagship Coalition co-chair Sean Reilly. “Going back to late last year, the Jindal Administration was very open to our higher education suggestions and made GRAD Act 2.0 a priority. We also can’t thank Speaker Tucker and Senate President Joel Chaisson enough for their leadership in guiding this bill through the legislative process.”
“Now more than ever, LSU and other universities in the state need the flexibility and autonomy contained in the bill to achieve savings and efficiencies in a difficult budget cycle,” added Flagship Coalition co-chair Lane Grigsby. “We recognize challenges still remain for higher education funding, but we believe this legislation will result in bottom-line savings for campuses.”
Andrew Muhl on behalf of the American Cancer Society of Louisiana and the Coalition For a Tobacco-Free Louisiana
I have exciting news to share:
The 4 cent tax renewal was included in the TOPS Constitutional Amendment (SB 53), which won final approval tonight.
First, on behalf of the American Cancer Society and the Coalition For a Tobacco-Free Louisiana, I say thank you.
This was only possible because of your leadership, time, organizational resources and hard work.
We played a full 4 quarters like a true team and have made a profound impact on all Louisianans.
Once the public approves this in the fall, the cigarette tax will permanently remain at 36 cents (and 4 cents will actually be constitutionally REQUIRED to go to health care where it draws a 3:1 federal Medicaid match)
What this policy will mean:
We will keep and reassign the $12 million in state funds and now draw down an additional $36 million in federal dollars to specifically go to health care.
What this also means is that because of your help, we have defied not only Governor opposition, but a Governor veto.
This is a rare moment and we should all be proud of our accomplishment and its profound impact.
Again, thank you all.
American Cancer Society of Louisiana
Southeast Super-Region Committee
Today, the Southeast Super-Region Committee (SRC), an initiative of Greater New Orleans, Inc. and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber that fosters cooperation for the mutual benefit of the Baton Rouge and Greater New Orleans regions, applauds the passage of HB 597 Jackson — the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program. The bill, a priority of the SRC, passed the House of Representatives this morning unanimously, as final legislative action of a two-year effort. It provides for a 35% transferrable tax credit for angel investments, with a program sunset of July 1, 2015.
"The passage of this legislation is great news for the local start-up and entrepreneurial community," said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of GNO, Inc. "Angel investors often fill the financing gap that entrepreneurs face when launching new business ventures. Reinstatement of Angel Investor Tax Credit Program will promote entrepreneurship for emerging technologies across Southeast Louisiana."
The bill received statewide support from a number of organizations, including but not limited to the following: Southeast Super-Region Committee; NextGen Council of GNO, Inc.; Chamber of Southwest Louisiana; Bossier Chamber of Commerce; North Louisiana Economic Partnership; Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association; Downtown Development District of New Orleans; Lafayette Opportunity Machine; Lafayette Economic Development Authority; Regional Innovation Organization; Louisiana Technology Council; North East Louisiana Authority; Central Louisiana Economic Development Authority; and Louisiana Coalition for Capital.
"HB 597 keeps small companies home and helps to keep local money in our local communities," said Fred Peer, Partner with N.O. Brew, a multi-state company headquartered in Gretna, Louisiana. "This initiative is vital for the growth of our own company, but moreover important for the future economic health of our regional community as a whole."
Authored by State Representative Michael Jackson of Baton Rouge, the Angel Investor bill passed 34-2 in the Senate and 92-0 in the House, with 48 legislators signing on as coauthors. It now awaits the signature of Governor Bobby Jindal before taking effect.
How do you think the legislature, Governor Jindal and others did this session?
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