March 30, 2007


Lawmakers will consider a variety of fiscal legislation during the 2007 Regular Fiscal/Limited Legislative Session, the fifth session since hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Over the next few pre-session weeks, we will take a glance at some of the topics on the session's agenda.

*Several House bills have been filed that would return the individual income tax rates and brackets to those prior to the "Stelly Plan." Additionally, legislation has been filed that would re-establish the excess federal itemized deduction which existed prior to adoption of the plan.

*In 1997 the legislature passed Act 818, which phased-out the state inheritance tax beginning after June 30, 1998, until June 30, 2003, when the amount of tax was reduced by 80 percent. A total repeal was effective after June 30, 2004, if and when a judgment of possession is rendered or when succession is opened no later than the ninth month following the death of the decedent. If this is not done, then the full amount of inheritance tax is due.

House Bill 41 repeals the requirement that a judgment of possession be rendered or that a succession be opened within nine months following the decedent's death for the tax to be waived. Further, all persons who paid the tax based on deaths occurring after June 30, 2004, are entitled to a refund.

*House Bill 14 would authorize an income tax deduction for disaster-related casualty losses attributed to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

*House Bill 20 would require gaming licensees to provide gambling hotline information in their television advertising.

*House Bill 79 would extend the sales and use tax exemption provided for purchases of utilities by certain steelworks and blast furnaces, effective July 1, 2007.

*House Bill 86 would reinstate the sales tax exemption for business utilities, effective July 1, 2007.

*House Bill 93 would provide a tax exemption for the purchase of college textbooks.

*House Bill 94 would allow a $75 child tax credit for all children under the age of 19, for children under the age of 24 who are full time students, and for disabled children of any age.


by Rep. Steve Scalise
District 82

With a projected surplus of more than $1 billion, we have a unique opportunity this session to make significant reforms to our state's tax code. Rather than spending all of the surplus on new government programs, we should use at least half of this money to reduce the tax burden on families and businesses throughout Louisiana.

The most effective way the Legislature can help families is to repeal the tax increases brought on by the Stelly Plan. The Stelly Plan made a number of changes to our tax code. While it repealed the state sales tax on food and household utilities, it also increased personal income tax brackets and repealed some tax deductions that were enjoyed by families. The overall result of this change has turned out to be a multi-million dollar net increase of new taxes the state is collecting.

Legislation has already been pre-filed this year to modify the Stelly Plan to make it revenue- neutral rather than a large tax increase. Some bills will restore the excess itemized deductions for things like home mortgage interest and charitable contributions that were eliminated by the Stelly Plan. Other legislation will reduce income taxes by compressing the brackets closer to their levels before the plan took effect. Of course these proposals will spark an interesting debate on tax policy that will impact hundreds of thousands of families in Louisiana.

Over the last 20 years, Louisiana has been the only state in the South to lose population. Based on the loss of population we have been experiencing, we will lose a seat in Congress after the next reapportionment in 2010 unless we quickly start making our state more competitive. A large part of that exodus has been middle-class families. If we pass these tax cuts, we will be sending an important message to middle-class families that we want to become more competitive with states like Texas and Florida that have no personal income tax. We will also be sending a message that we want to reverse the trend of out-migration and bring back families who have left.

March 24, 2007

Welcome to IN THE LOOP

On March 22nd, the LA House of Representatives launched their blog, In the Loop. In the Loop, will not be a traditional blog but will host brief articles of interest to all who follow the Louisiana House of Representatives. In the Loop will provide Representatives and staff a forum to discuss topical issues of concern to the citizens of Louisiana and it will provide our citizens a means by which to comment and communicate with their elected Representatives.
Sheila McCant, Public Information Officer; Kathleen Randall, Civic Education Coordinator; and me, Alfred Speer, Clerk of the House are the editors. We encourage all members and all staff to submit articles for In the Loop and we invite all readers to comment. We hope to create an on-line communication medium for Louisiana’s citizens to better interact with their elected Representatives.

March 22, 2007

Planning New Member Orientation

By: Kathleen Randall
With only 59 of the 105 members of the House of Representatives eligible for reelection, the upcoming turnover presents a unique challenge to the returning members and the staff, that is, how to best teach this large class of newly-elected members, who are limited to three terms at a stretch, the necessary information concerning the institution of the House of Representatives. The Speaker has appointed a special committee on Orientation to plan a comprehensive curriculum for training members and district office staff. Their work will parallel the study of the Special Committee on Term Limits chaired by Representatives Cazayoux and Tucker.
Co-chaired by Representatives Jean Doerge and Jane Smith, the Curriculum Committee on Member Orientation, 2007-2008, includes Representatives Ernie Alexander, Regina Barrow, Tim Burns, Carla Dartez, Brett Geymann, Avon Honey, Nita Hutter, Kay Katz, Loulan Pitre, Harold Ritchie, Joel Robideaux, and Mert Smiley, with Representatives Cazayoux and Tucker serving ex officio.
At its first meeting on March 20, staff resource persons Mary Quaid, Kathleen Randall, Butch Speer, and Bryan Vincent made presentations about orientation concepts and benefits, notable orientation programs from other state legislatures, the history of House orientation and training from the late 1960's to the present, and the various phases of training recommended for House adoption.
The Curriculum Committee on Member Orientation, 2007-2008, has a dedicated web site: . The committee's deliberations and resource materials are available there.
(To access it from the House Home Page go to "Representatives" and click on "By Committee" and open the "Cmte on Orientation" link.)
The committee will meet again during the first week of the session. Meanwhile, subcommittees on the various training phases will deliberate with staff on the content, teaching methodologies, and frequency of training, in order to start formulating a comprehensive plan for the full committee to review. Current House members are encouraged to provide input to the committee members and their staff – especially insight on the question, "What do you wish you had known when you first got to the House of Representatives?"

LA-First in the Nation

by: Alfred W. Speer, Clerk
On February 26 of this year, Karl Kurtz wrote on the NCSL blog "The Thicket at State Legislatures" that the Virginia General Assembly became the first legislature to express remorse over the existence of slavery in the United States. This action by the Virginia legislature garnered national press coverage, the latest occurring just this week when the LA Times ran a story on the mounting wave of legislative efforts to apologize for slavery. However, Louisiana’s Legislature was 12 years ahead of the current wave.In the 1996 First Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature, Rep. Yvonne Dorsey and 19 other House members and 2 Senators authored a concurrent resolution [HCR No. 22] which resolved:"the Legislature of Louisiana does hereby acknowledge the past role of the state of Louisiana and the people of the state in the establishment and maintenance of the institution of slavery and the subsequent injuries it produced; and the Legislature of Louisiana does hereby extend to the African-American citizens of Louisiana a sincere expression of regret for such role, and does pledge that all citizens of the state shall now join in a united effort to assure that each and every citizen may enjoy the full blessings of liberty."

Perhaps Virginia's apology for slavery renders that effort first in the current legislative season and is the impetus of such resolutions but our Legislature preceded Virginia by 12 years in expressing their collective regret for the state's role in enslaving Africans.
Regrettably, Rep. Dorsey’s efforts went unnoticed by the media and remain lost in the clatter of today’s reporting. We Louisianans know better. Congratulations, Yvonne!

March 16, 2007


by Mary Quaid, Director
House Legislative Services

The House Special Committee on Preparing for Term Limits, co-chaired by Reps. Don Cazayoux and Jim Tucker, held its fourth meeting earlier this week to discuss the third goal of the committee, namely "partisanship." To assist in this effort, the committee heard from Dr. James C. Garand, Emogene Pliner Distinguished Professor at LSU, for an academic perspective on partisanship and term limits.

Dr. Garand’s comments were timely and of much interest to the committee members. While cautioning the committee that he lacked the empirical data to support his opinion, Dr. Garand stated that the combination of term limits and demographic changes caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita will most likely result in a more partisan body, particularly in the House. He further commented and answered questions on the importance of party leadership in facilitating a healthy bi-partisan legislature.
Butch Speer then discussed the history of House partisanship, the various directions that partisanship can take, and the creation of a positive path and proper balance in the Louisiana House. Patricia Lowrey-Dufour joined the clerk in discussing examples of partisanship structures from other states, both positive and negative, and related the results of their state surveys on this issue.

Anne Dunn, Bryan Vincent, Mark Mahaffey, and Mary Quaid wrapped-up the program with information on planning for and effectively utilizing the interim. Anne gave a historical perspective and Bryan gave the results of our seven-state survey. The committee made some very favorable comments regarding future interim opportunities as both an educational and a deliberative tool.
The meeting was well-attended and went past its scheduled time frame of three hours. The fifth meeting of this term limits committee will take place in early May.