Historic Third Week as Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto
Legislators quickly moved economic and workforce development measures early in week three before a historic move to temporarily adjourn the Regular Session and convene a Veto Session to override Governor Edwards’ veto of a congressional map approved by the Legislature in February. Below is a full rundown of last week’s action.
Centralized Sales Tax Collection
A top 1A legislative priority is HB 681 by Speaker Clay Schexnayder. This Constitutional Amendment establishes the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission to modernize and simplify our tax system for Louisiana’s small businesses. This new 8-member Commission will have equal representation from state and local governments and will administer sales tax collection, auditing, and dispute resolution. This common-sense reform puts Louisiana’s businesses on a level playing field with online retailers like Amazon and Wayfair.
HB 681 was back on the House Ways and Means agenda after being deferred last week to allow for additional discussions with local stakeholders. It was reported favorably by the Committee on 3/29, after being amended to bring the language more in line with last year’s version of the bill. HB 681 is now pending consideration by House Civil Law and Procedure.
One of 1A’s top workforce development priorities this session is SB 261 by Sen. Cleo Fields.Dubbed the “Universal Transferability” bill, it would provide an easier pathway for students to earn college credits that are guaranteed to count toward an associate or four-year degree.
Today’s students are more likely to attend more than one college or university, or to bring with them postsecondary learning acquired outside of a traditional higher education setting, including through dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and military training. However, many students are finding out after they’ve taken a course that it doesn’t count toward their degree completion. SB 261 would establish 60-hour “transfer pathways” for each major discipline in the public post-secondary system so there is a clear understanding of which credits can be applied toward a degree, no matter where those credits are earned.
SB 261 passed the Senate unanimously on 3/29 and now heads to the House for consideration.
Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee considered HB 287 by Rep. Matthew Willard, which would require that occupational license taxes levied annually on computer programming businesses be set at a flat rate. Current law – last updated in the 1980s – does not appropriately classify these companies. In practice, computer programming services are being taxed at the same rate as retailers, which are subject to a $6,200 minimum annual tax, whereas other companies designated as “Professional Services,” such as accountants and engineers, are charged a flat fee based on revenue, at a maximum of $2,000.
HB 287 is needed to modernize Louisiana’s outdated occupational license tax statute. The bill was reported favorably by the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, 3/29 and now heads to the House floor for consideration.
On March 30, the Legislature adjourned the Regular Session and gaveled in for a Veto Session – only the second in modern history – to attempt to override the Governor’s veto of a congressional map legislators approved in February. The Legislature achieved the two-thirds vote needed to override Governor Edwards’ veto, in both the House (72 yeas - 31 nays) and Senate (27 yeas - 11 nays), and promptly adjourned.
The map in question largely maintains the existing boundaries of Louisiana’s six congressional districts, making adjustments to even out the population distribution among the districts. The largely party-line vote saw Democrats side with the Governor in rejecting the map, arguing that according to the federal Voting Rights Act, Louisiana needs a second majority-minority district.
While the Legislature’s successful veto override certainly makes a statement, civil rights groups have already filed lawsuits challenging the legality of the map, and we can expect the last word to ultimately come from the federal court system.
Early childhood care and education advocates will take to the Capitol this Tuesday to appear before the House Appropriations Committee, where they will advocate for Governor Edwards’ proposal to include $94 million in the state budget for early care and education programs.
1A is also monitoring SB 151 by Sen. Pope, a Constitutional Amendment that would enshrine Governor Edwards’ executive orders modifying the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) into the State Constitution. ITEP is one of the most effective economic development tools at Louisiana’s disposal, supporting direct and indirect job creation in our state for the last 60 years. SB 151 would weaken ITEP by locking cumbersome rules for the program into the State Constitution. The bill is scheduled for Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs on 4/11.