Carlson: A few bills filed by local lawmakers

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Well, there had to be a session of reckoning for state lawmakers and Governor Bobby Jindal as it concerns the way Louisiana’s been financed over the last several years.

And it sure looks like this year’s projected $1.6 billion budget shortfall is finally the catalyst for that reckoning – in the form of eight intense weeks of legislative and administrative work to preclude the very real possibility of shuttering colleges and devastating cuts to state healthcare.

But waiting for those budget remedies is an opportunity to look at a few bills filed by local lawmakers and, if passed, the impact of such new laws.

Representative Jim Morris, Oil City, along with more than a dozen fellow House members have proposed a constitutional amendment (House Bill 617) that would prohibit the appropriation or transfer of money out of a dedicated fund for any purpose outside of that to which the fund is dedicated.  The exception would be permitted transfers authorized in the present constitution to correct projected deficits.

Too bad this hasn’t been law for the last six years.  Robbing dedicated funds to pay unrelated state costs has been the rule instead of the exception.  And it’s fair to wonder if all state lawmakers will be as committed as Morris and his co-sponsoring colleagues to this proposed law.

A proposed law that would require a server of alcoholic beverages to identify the designated driver for anyone being served an alcoholic beverage is offered by Bossier Representative Henry Burns in House Bill 132.

This is a good concept – but enforcement would be a nightmare.  Requiring a bartender or beverage server to keep up with dozens of patrons and their designated drivers would create an unmanageable problem – and liability — for these workers.  There has to be a more practical approach to keeping drunk drivers off the road.

House Bill 216, sponsored by local lawmakers including Alan Seabaugh, Henry Burns, Mike Johnson, Patrick Williams and Sherri Buffington, is a second attempt to increase the local hotel-motel occupancy tax, the goal of which is to provide much needed funding for three specific local needs.

Last year’s first attempt to approve this increase in the hotel motel occupancy tax failed by way of Bossier Parish voters, and many of those voters may not have clearly understood who would pay the tax increase and what it would fund.

A hotel motel occupancy tax already exists and is paid by guests to our area who stay in Caddo and Bossier Parishes.  Funding derived from the proposed increase of 1.5 percent would be dedicated to the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission, Independence Bowl Foundation, and the Ark-La-Tex Regional Air Service Alliance.

All three of these entities contribute to the Shreveport-Bossier economy, but could be heavier contributors with the additional funding – more information about this worthy proposition will be offered in an upcoming column.

Although finding the right fiscal path to correcting the deficit in the state budget is the primary concern of most Louisianans this year, lawmakers also filed hundreds of bills for consideration in the current legislative session.  It’s always a good idea to peruse those offerings so as not to be surprised when a half a dozen or so inexplicable new laws are adopted annually.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com