SW La. representatives back child support, tax changes

BATON ROUGE — Most Southwest Louisiana House members voted for legislation Thursday to modify child support payments for those behind bars. They also supported income tax reform measures sent to the Senate on Wednesday.

The child support bill is part of a criminal justice reform package aimed at improving Louisiana’s incarceration rate, the nation’s highest.

House Bill 680, by Rep. Joseph Marino, an independent from Gretna, would keep child support payments by inmates from continuing to grow while they are confined more than 180 days. A court would be involved in approving any changes in the payments. The House approved it 68-30 and sent it to the Senate.

Reps. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles; Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur; Stephen Dwight, R-Moss Bluff; A.B. Franklin, D-Lake Charles; Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek; and Frank Howard, R-Many, voted for the bill.

Reps. Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings, and Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, were opposed. Rep. James Armes, D-Leesville, was recorded as absent.

Marino told House members that offenders would be more likely to return to a life of crime if they faced major debt after release. The legislation was amended to take care of concerns expressed when it was debated a day earlier.

Provisions wouldn’t apply if the person behind bars is there because of failure to pay child support, has the means to pay support while in jail or is confined for an offense involving custody matters.

Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, opposed most of the reform bills. He said crime victims were being overlooked in the reform package. Mack said Marino’s measure would deprive children and custodial parents of money they are entitled to.

Five Southwest Louisiana lawmakers — Abraham, Danahay, Dwight, Franklin and Hill — voted Wednesday for House Bill 359, which would establish a 3.95 percent flat rate for individuals paying state income taxes instead of rates as high as 6 percent. Guinn, Hensgens and Howard were opposed. Armes was reported as absent.

House Bill 360 would establish a 6.5 percent flat rate for corporations paying state income taxes instead of five rates as high as 8 percent. Abraham, Armes, Danahay, Dwight, Franklin, Guinn and Hill voted for the bill. Hensgens and Howard were opposed.

If the Senate approves the legislation, voters would have the last word since they are constitutional amendments. Both bills are revenue-neutral, meaning they wouldn’t collect revenues much different from current revenues.

Individuals and corporations would have to give up their ability to deduct federal taxes on state returns in exchange for the lower flat rates. Voters would also have the final word on that part of the bill.

Eight of the nine Southwest Louisiana lawmakers voted for Senate Bill 359, which would require municipal and parish governing authorities to post signs indicating a mobile speed camera is present. Hensgens was reported as absent. The bill was approved 93-5.

The signs would have to be between 250 and 500 feet from the camera’s location. Failure to post the signs would make it impossible to collect any criminal or civil fines, fees or penalties.

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