Another tax reform bill bites the dust

Another tax reform bill bites the dust

With the Legislature scheduled to adjourn in eight days, the chances of lawmakers agreeing on a solution to the $1.3 billion fiscal “cliff” in 2018 are increasingly remote.

Number of the Day

1,100- nonviolent offenders to be released from prison by next summer if the criminal justice package is approved without amendments (Source: NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune)

With the Legislature scheduled to adjourn in eight days, the chances of lawmakers agreeing on a solution to the $1.3 billion fiscal “cliff” in 2018 are increasingly remote. One of the last efforts at tax reform was extinguished on Tuesday by the House, which brought an angry rebuke from sponsoring Rep. Barry Ivey of Central. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges has more on the apathy and frustration at the Capitol.

On Tuesday, Ivey admitted defeat after the House failed to approve one of his key bills. It would have replaced the current graduated corporate income tax rate with a flat rate, coupled with corporations losing their right to deduct their federal tax payments on their state tax returns. It was a major task force recommendation. “We’re not actually focused on trying to solve our fiscal cliff or our tax reform problems… If you’re not interested in solving problems, this bill will fall…There’s been a lack of leadership on the 4th floor and the first floor to come together to get the comprehensive reform we need,” Ivey said, referring to the location of the governor’s office and the legislative chambers in the State Capitol. “The governor hasn’t led. No one in this chamber has led in trying to get bipartisan reform.”

 

Criminal justice bills start moving

A package of bills aimed at reducing Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate began moving through the House on Tuesday, days after they stalled due to political squabbles on an unrelated issue. The 10 bills together will reduce the prison population, lower barriers to re-entry and reinvest savings into programs for ex-convicts seeking support. The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen reports

Five bills passed by the House on Tuesday night were sponsored by a raft of bipartisan lawmakers. Three of the bills were aimed at helping people released from prison acclimate to society with limited financial burdens to reduce their chances of recidivism. Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, proposed House Bill 249, which allows judges to tailor restitution payments to a person’s ability to pay. House Bill 681 by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, expanded food stamps for ex-convicts accused of drug crimes who were previously barred from access, and House Bill 519 by Rep. Julie Emerson expanded opportunities for occupational licenses for people getting out of jail.

Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue reports that Rep. Sherman Mack, who heads the  House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice and has concerns about some of the bills that passed the Senate.

Some of the provisions in the bills, as currently written, apply retroactively to nonviolent offenders who are already in prison. But Mack said he intends to push for amendments that would remove the retroactivity from the bills, meaning they wouldn’t apply to anyone currently in prison. He also said he wants to get rid of the changes that could shorten sentences for first-time inmates convicted of violent offenses. It’s not clear what Mack’s proposed changes would do to the criminal justice package’s proposed savings and prison population reduction. “He hasn’t really talked to anybody about his changes, which is the frustrating part,” said Rep. Joseph Marino, of Gretna, who is carrying the three Senate bills in the House. Marino, a criminal defense lawyer, has been involved in many of the negotiations between the governor and the district attorneys. “The reason we’ve been having all the meetings to build consensus is to avoid people doing just this type of thing.”

 

Sanctuary cities bill dies

An attempt by Rep. Valarie Hodges to block so-called sanctuary cities from receiving state funding was torpedoed in a Senate committee on Tuesday – the second consecutive year such legislation was shot down. R.J. Rico reports of the Associated Press reports that law enforcement agencies, whose opinions typically carry considerable weight in legislative debates, did not support the bill.

“Law enforcement is not shy coming to this committee and saying, ’We need something,’” said Morrell, who is the brother of two police officers. “When I sit with (my brothers) and they talk about their concerns about what’s dangerous in society, immigration isn’t even on their radar at this point.” Police officers need to be allowed to ask whether a person who is under arrest is legally in the United States, said Hodges, of Denham Springs. Calling her bill a matter of national security, Hodges said immigration fraud was “one of the key methods” used by the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. Hodges said she was not sure whether there are any cities in Louisiana that she would consider to be sanctuary cities.

 

Majority of Trump’s budget cuts will burden the poor

Almost 60 percent of the budget cuts proposed by President Donald Trump would fall on programs that serve low- and moderate-income families, according to the latest report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Isaac Shapiro, Richard Kogan and Chloe Cho break down the numbers:

[O]ver the next decade the Trump budget also proposes:  $22 billion in cuts to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), which already has lost more than one-third of its value since the mid-1990s due to inflation; $17 billion in cuts by eliminating the Social Services Block Grant, which provides states with funding for services for people with modest incomes, such as child care and adult day care programs; and $40 billion in cuts to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.  Further, the budget would eliminate subsidized student loans for low- and moderate-income families, forcing them instead to take out the more expensive unsubsidized loans that accrue interest while the student is in school.  This will raise the cost of college for students with demonstrated financial need.

 

Number of the Day

1,100– nonviolent offenders to be released from prison by next summer if the criminal justice package is approved without amendments (Source: NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune)