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I-Bowl funding bill moves on

A hotel/motel tax aimed at improving sports tourism cleared its first hurdle last week.

State Representative Roy Burrell’s, D-Shreveport, HB1191 passed committee last Thursday. The bill would authorize the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau to levy and collect an additional hotel occupancy tax of 2.5 percent. That increased revenue would be divided between the Independence Bowl, Arklatex Regional Air Service Alliance, and Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission.

Pending passage in the House and Senate, it would still need to be approved by a public vote in Bossier and Caddo Parishes.

The additional tax of 2.5 percent would increase the local occupancy tax to 7 percent. Independence Bowl officials note this increase would raise approximately $2.6 million annually.

The bill was originally carried last session by State Representative Henry Burns, R-Haughton, but failed. Burns argued the increase in funding would allow the bowl to attract more competitive teams which would boost attendance and visitors to the area.

He applauded the effort of Burrell and the northwest Louisiana delegation’s efforts this term.

“This will help us sustain the Independence Bowl which has become a tradition for northwest Louisiana.”

Burns explained his decision to carry the 2013 version of the bill was as a “team player.”

“I was a little bit east of the area, being in Haughton, that would be directly affected by that. But we had the right person carry the bill this time and harmonious support between the groups affected and the legislators in Baton Rouge,” he said.

As for this week in the House, he said the education committee will meet Thursday and discuss more elements of Common Core State Standards.

“I expect to bring up my bill (HB163) that mitigates, modifies, or eliminates PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) as the state testing tool,” Burns noted. “I promised our local educators that I would represent their thoughts on PARCC that they didn’t have assets or will need more time for training.”

State Representative Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, said he expects the budget to be discussed in committee on Monday. His bill has moved forward that would charge oil companies for the water they are now removing for free from Lake Bisteneau, Cypress Black Bayou, and other state-owned bodies of water, and dedicate those funds to eradication of giant salvinia. Thompson also saw his Resolution HCR 41 passed in support if 307th Red Horse Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base.

Thompson also saw his legislation to expand authority of the State Police oversight in dealing with explosive materials signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal this week. It is the first piece of legislation from this year’s session to be signed into law.

On the Senate side, Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, said the hours are growing longer.

“We’re getting into more debate, sessions are lasting longer, committees are seeing more controversial bills. For example, our discussion on the constitutional amendment to extend medicaid throughout the state went from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.,” Peacock said.

The lengthy debate was pushed largely by state Democrats, but Peacock noted the decision to extend medicaid statewide would need to be approved by Gov. Bobby Jindal regardless.

“There are some valid points with other states’ complaints about problems in extending medicaid coverage. Time will tell if we made the right decision.”

Peacock said there will be debate this week on equal pay bills when they hit the Senate floor.

“Last year, a lot of these bills that came through with great titles, but when dig into the weeds, there’s a lot of potential litigation for businesses. When you start punishing business for unintentional discrimination, that’s a concern for me,” he said.

Peacock expects four of his authored bills to be heard in the House on Monday. He also expected his bill dealing with the privacy of jurors, SB353, to pass the Senate that same day.

“When a juror is called to serve, those citizens fill out questionnaires and they need to be made private. It doesn’t limit at all what the clerk will get, but it protects that information from public consumption. Defense and prosecution attorneys would still have access to that information,” he explained.

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