Independence Bowl loses while NOLA wins on Hotel-Motel taxes
Fans and friends of the Independence Bowl are still reeling from the sting of defeat of State Rep. Henry Burns', R-Haughton, HB179 in the House Municipal, Parochial, and Cultural Affairs committee two weeks ago.
Burns' bill in its original form, would have let Bossier, Caddo, Bossier City, and Shreveport increase the local hotel/motel occupancy tax by 2.5 percent.
Those extra tax dollars would have been split between the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission and the newly renamed AdvoCare V100 Bowl.
The sports commission would have used the extra revenue to solicit major sporting events and the AdvoCare V100 (Independence Bowl) would increase payouts, moving the bowl's status into a higher tier which would result in more prestigious teams playing in the bowl game.
During negotiations, the tax rate was lowered to 1.5 percent and Sports Commission funding was removed via amendment.
However, HB179 wasn't meant to be. Opposition to the bill arose in committee, spearheaded by Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, a member of the committee.
The bill was ultimately “involuntarily deferred,” killing it for this session.
Norton spoke about the bill on local sports talk radio's, The Tim Fletcher show. She said she could not support the bill because it didn't have money to fund raises for hotel workers. She went on that say she was the voice for “the little people.”
Readers can listen to the entire interview online at this address: https://soundcloud.com/thetimfletchershow/norton-kills-bill-recording?in=thetimfletchershow/sets/fletch-reveals-kill-bill-why
Whether or not it is the the duty of government to tax others in order to give raises for private company employees is an argument for another day.
We acknowledge Rep. Norton's right to her dissension. To some extent, we even respect her misguided belief that her dissension was in the best interest of her constituents. We also respected the committee as a whole for its decision to involuntarily defer the bill.
Until this past Wednesday...
This same committee considered SB242 by Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans.
According to the Louisiana Legislature website, SB242 authorizes the levy of an optional hotel assessment by a tourism organization upon its hotel members and provides for treating such assessment as a surcharge to hotel guests.
The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported, “Senate Bill 242 would allow up to a 1.75 percent assessment on the daily room charge 'for destination marketing, sales, public relations and for other matters deemed by the tourism organization to benefit directly or indirectly economic development, the traveler economy and tourism growth.'”
Does this sound familiar?
While the word “tax” is not explicitly used, SB242 is essentially the same bill (only in New Orleans) as Burns' HB179.
The same committee that deferred Burns' bill, passed this one without objection.
We do not know for sure if Rep. Norton cast a vote during committee. There are 19 members of the committee and the bill passed 13-0. It is quite possible Norton wasn't even in the room.
That being said, the majority of the committee heard both bills, choosing to pass one and defer the other. We must ask, “why?”
Why is a hotel “assessment” in New Orleans for tourism more palatable than a hotel tax in Shreveport-Bossier for a tourism event like the AdvoCare V100 Bowl?
New Orleans sports some of the highest hotel taxes and fees in the nation. Shreveport-Bossier is a far cry from that.
Nothing we can find in the legislation leads us to believe there is money for hotel worker raises in the New Orleans bill either — not that there should be.
Arguments against Burns' bill simply do not hold water in light of the passage of SB242 from this committee.
It is too late for HB179 to be resurrected in some form during this legislative session. That ship has sailed for this year.
We are not even suggesting the defeat of SB242 as some sort of “payback” for HB179. We just want this committee, and all its members, to remember the hypocrisy of their actions with regard to this bill when it comes before them again in the future.
We also encourage the northwest Louisiana delegation to remember both of these bills when they plan next year's session.
What's good for New Orleans tourism should be good for ours — even if the House Municipal, Parochial, and Cultural Affairs committee doesn't want to admit it.