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Capitol Briefing: House advances Louisiana tax changes; here’s how Houma-Thibodaux lawmakers voted



LOUISIANA – An effort to revamp Louisiana’s corporate tax code moved a step closer to passage when it won approval from the House Monday.

House Bills 292 and 293 would eliminate a popular tax break that allows corporations to deduct their federal tax payment on their state income tax return. In conjunction, it would collapse the corporate tax rate at 6.5%. The bills now advance to a Senate committee.

All Houma-Thibodaux representatives, all Republicans, voted for the latter bill. They are Tanner Magee and Jerome Zeringue of Houma, Bryan Fontenot of Thibodaux, Beryl Amedée of Gray and Joseph Orgeron of Golden Meadow. Orgeron was absent for the vote on House Bill 292.

With the backing of the legislative leadership, the corporate tax bills, sponsored by state Rep. Neil Riser, R- Columbia, were approved with little debate. An additional piece of the package, House Bill 275, is awaiting consideration from a House committee.

The changes would be revenue neutral, meaning that the state is projected to collect about the same amount in corporate tax revenue as today.

Companion measures to carry out the same swap for individuals have passed the Senate. State Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, is leading that effort.

If all the measures pass the Legislature and are signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards, they would go to a statewide referendum in October 2021 or October 2022 to change the state Constitution.

Where are the flood-prevention projects?

Nearly five years after floodwaters ravaged Louisiana, not a single project has broken ground as part of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ $1.2 billion initiative to reduce flood risks — infuriating lawmakers who say the delays have left their constituents vulnerable.

“When it rains now, our people are wondering, ‘Why aren’t you doing something?’, and legitimately I can’t answer the question,” said Rep. Rick Edmonds, R- Baton Rouge, during a heated hearing before the House Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday.

But officials with Edwards’ administration say the hold-up isn’t their fault. Instead, they blame the federal government, which appropriated the funds in 2018 but didn’t make them available for the state to spend until September of last year.

“Every person that’s working on this understands the absolute urgency of spending this money quickly and well,” said Pat Forbes, executive director of the state’s Office of Community Development. “The delays are entirely in the federal process for getting the money available to us.”

Now that the dollars are available, Forbes said the state is working expeditiously to get the projects moving — and will have committed a quarter billion dollars toward specific flood-prevention efforts by the end of the year.

Forbes assured lawmakers he’s just as irritated as they are and said that the federal funds they’re working with are exceedingly frustrating to spend, especially when its clear what risks Louisianans are facing.

“It seems like we’re basking in bureaucratic bunkum,” said Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, R-Houma, concluding the hearing. “The challenge is: how can we get past this bureaucracy and get projects in the ground.”

Senate to debate requiring national anthem at games

Louisiana would require the national anthem to be played or sung before any sports competition held at a taxpayer-financed stadium or other venue, under a proposal heading to the full Senate for debate.

Senate Republican leader Sharon Hewitt, of Slidell, said she proposed Senate Bill 124 to honor veterans and to remind people “that we live in the greatest country in the world.”

The proposal carries no penalties if a game is held without the anthem, however. Hewitt said she hopes people would want to play it to comply.

A Senate judiciary committee sent the bill to the Senate floor without objection.