Dig Baton Rouge

BILLS, BILLS, BILLS

By Nick BeJeaux

The end of the 2014 Louisiana Legislative Session is in sight. By law, the session will conclude at 6 p.m. on June 2, giving lawmakers five days to figure out how the hell they’re going to pay for anything. Obviously the budget fight is always the main attraction at this legislative circus – all the craziness before was merely a preamble – and watching our glorious leaders divvy up $25 billion can be every kind of hilarious and frustrating.

The budget is not all there is in these final days. Decisions on issue that have dragged on from Day One, namely the Levee Board Lawsuit, have been made. Also, public education and shady politics had their fun in the sun this week! Foxes, not so much.

Even though it’s days are in the single digits, you can still follow the action at http://www.legis.la.gov – you owe it to youself as a taxpayer to also pay attention.

 

With less than a week in the session, Lawmakers have started the annual Budget Battle Royál. Just when the House thought they had the budget set for the next fiscal year, the Senate Finance Committee walked in and tore it to shreds. The Committee threw out $63 million in cuts to contracts, state government jobs, overtime and technology expenses. While they were at it, they cut funding intended for the disabled community and added $4.5 million to host the Verizon IndyCar Series. Because of reasons.

LSU has been mandated to create a smoke free campus by August 1, 2014. Good luck with that. Apart from the sheer size of the campus during school hours, how are you supposed to enforce this on game day when half of the state is on campus for tailgating? University officials have touted that there will be no ticketing or financial penalties for breaking this policy in the beginning, just a peer enforcement system. Again, good luck with that.

The House Committee on Natural Resources has finally stopped toying with the Levee Board lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies. They killed it; deliberately, swiftly and mercilessly – it’s kind of impressive actually. The Committee did so by amending Senate Bill 469, which makes it impossible for state agencies to file lawsuits on behalf of the state, to apply retroactively. This may be the death knell for the largest environmental lawsuit in history, but the show of unity that took it down was inspiring.

The House voted to keep public schools from choosing their own textbooks. What do teachers know, anyway? The House shot down a bill that would have given schools more freedom to choose the textbooks used to fulfill their curriculum.While the Senate had already approved the measure, the House voted  49-35 against it, demonstrating their belief that public education is best left under state control.

The Senate approved a workers comp bill for the Saints. This bill was created with the concern that state law does not clearly define how athletes should be paid when injured. Now even more concerns have surfaced that the measure will hurt low-profile players, as it dictates that benefits will now be scaled to salary.  The NFL is not happy, but you can bet Tom Benson, the Saints’ owner, is. Afterall, the guy is only worth $1.5 billion, he needs to save every penny he can get his paws on.

A bill that preserves fox pen “hunting” has made it’s way to Jindal’s desk. Fox pen hunting is kinda self-explanatory. You set a fox loose in a fenced-in area and run it down with dogs that subsequently rip it to pieces. Regardless of your stance on the ethics of hunting animals for sport, hunting within a fenced area is just unfair and so easy a blind-deaf guy with no hands could do it. Is that offensive? Well, so is this stupidity.

 

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