July 26, 2007

Veto Session: Law and procedure

by: Alfred W. Speer, Clerk of the House
Our constitution provides for an automatic veto session at noon on the fortieth day after sine die adjournment – August 7, 2007 [LA const. art. III, section 18(C)]. The first provision for a veto session was added to the 1921 constitution by amendment adopted in 1966 [LA const. 1921, art. III, section 8.2]. The session may be cancelled by a majority of the elected members of either house of the legislature affirmatively declaring against holding the session.
The Governor returned the vetoed bills to the two clerical officers and on Monday the 23rd of July and the clerical officers mailed the vetoes to the members along with a declaration against the veto session, all as required by R.S. 24:10. The members have until midnight of August 2nd to return their declarations against a veto session. If 53+ House members AND 20+ Senators fail to return their declarations the veto session will convene at noon on August 7th.
The veto session can last no more than 5 calendar days and is limited in scope to the consideration of the 14 vetoed bills and the 10 line items from the General Appropriation Bill vetoed by the Governor. To see the Governor’s veto messages visit the Legislature’s web page on vetoed bills.
Upon convening a veto session, the Speaker would announce to the gathered membership, a quorum (53 or more members) being present, the list of items to be considered during the veto session. For the House, the list would be the 8 House Bills vetoed and the 10 vetoed items from the General Appropriation Bill. The House would proceed to consider these items in order, as listed. The author of the vetoed bill (or HB 1) would take the floor to make a motion to “Pass H. B. no. __ Subsequent to the Governor’s Veto.” This motion is debatable and opens the entire bill for debate. However, the House may not offer amendments to the bill to rectify the flaw(s) identified by the Governor as her reason for vetoing the bill. This motion to pass may be substituted for by moving to “sustain the Governor’s veto” and the bill may be returned to the calendar or tabled by subsidiary motions. The vote necessary to over-ride a veto (pass subsequent to a veto) is 2/3 of the elected members of the House, or 70 votes. Any fewer votes cast for the motion to over-ride results in the Governor’s veto being sustained.
If the House votes to pass a bill subsequent to a veto we would then message the Senate of such action and request they consider also passing the bill subsequent to the veto. Senate Bills vetoed by the Governor would be considered by the House only if the Senate had voted by 2/3 of their elected membership (26) to pass the bill subsequent to the veto. Bills passed by both houses subsequent to the Governor’s veto become law.
A veto session may not continue beyond the 5th calendar day after the same has been convened (August 11th).

July 03, 2007

2007 Regular Session Wrapup

by Sheila McCant
The 2007 Regular Session is now a chapter for the history books. A limited number of general issue bills were allowed during this fiscal session and they covered a wide variety of issues from hurricane recovery to ethics, to cockfighting. And although some of these bills generated healthy debate, there was one dominant theme during this session - money. And the money issue came in many forms - a record surplus, breaking the spending cap, tax breaks, incentives, and pay raises for teachers, support workers, college faculty, judges, state employees, and others.
For the first time in recent history, House Bill 1 bypassed conference and went straight to the governor's desk. Although she has taken no action on the bill at this time, the governor has signed House Bill 765, the $1.9 billion supplemental appropriations bill that earmarks surplus money and other funds for, among other things, a new charity hospital for New Orleans, $600 million for road improvements, education, health initiatives, the shortfall in the Road Home program, and coastal restoration. Additionally, House Bill 953 uses surplus money from the 2006-07 fiscal year for a variety of programs and obligations.
Also passing was HCR 10 which raised the spending cap for Fiscal Year 2006-2007 from $10,318,239,142 to $12,196,877,089.
The concurrent resolution has been filed with the secretary of state.The bulk of the legislation now faces its last hurdle, the governor's pen. The complete wrapup may be viewed here .

July 01, 2007

2007 Legislative Session: The Good and the Bad

By Rep. Tim Burns
The Good: Then vs. Now
The last time that the legislature had such an embarassment of riches, it was at the height of the oil boom and Edwin Edwards was Governor. The spending bandwagon was in full throttle and there were few fiscal conservatives in sight. If someone had even suggested fiscal restraint, they would have gotten laughed out of the Capitol.
Today, fiscal conservatives were able to totally derail an ill-conceived special session in December and even force some sanity into the spending madness this past session. The administration's spending bonanza was defeated three separate times on the House floor and the sale of the tobacco settlement (for still even more money) was forced to be jettisoned.
In addition, the legislature passed more tax breaks than the administration wanted, including a substantial repeal of Stelly (reinstating the excess itemized deductions), the repeal of the gift tax, 7% tax credit for insurance premiums, and a private school tuition deduction of up to $5,000. However, it still remains to be seen how much tax relief survives the veto pen.
Fiscal conservatives are on the rise and the upcoming elections could mark an historic shift away from Louisiana's entitlement mentality.
The Bad: Spending Everything that Wasn't Nailed Down
Although an overwhelming number of voters wanted a fiscally prudent approach, the administration did what it wanted and spent every penny and then some. Louisiana has the fourth highest spending per capita in the nation and now has the highest debt per capita at any time in its history. Despite pleas to the contrary, the "Old Guard" in the legislature, many of them Edwin Edwards holdovers, just could not resist the urge to spend. Their fiscal insanity could cripple the economy in the years to come. And of course spending was based on politics rather than policy and progressive ideas such as transferring vehicle sales taxes into a construction fund for the state's infrastructure were shot down because, of course, that would leave less money to spend.