Seven weeks in, still much to decide

Senators to start moving on riverboat gaming, retirement age, exemptions

<p class="p1">Legislators begin the seventh week of their session today with the House trying to wrap up work on its bills and beginning to handle Senate measures. Senators will have to start moving controversial bills from their subject-to-call calendar, including gambling legislation.</p><p class="p5">The controversial Senate bills deal with riverboat gambling, legislative sessions, the retirement age for judges, industrial tax exemptions, weapons bills, making 18 the minimum age for marrying and moving of a riverboat casino to Tangipahoa Parish from Bossier City.</p><p class="p5">Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, is author of Senate Bill 316 that would permit the state’s 15 riverboat casinos to move on land no more than 1,200 feet from their current waterway locations. It also establishes a maximum number of machines for each casino.</p><p class="p5">An effort to eliminate the 70 retirement age for judges failed earlier in the Senate. The measure is up for reconsideration. The House will also reconsider a similar measure.</p><p class="p5">The industrial property tax exemption bill would reduce the renewal period from five to three years and from 100 to 80 percent. The session</p><p class="p5"> legislation would permit limited tax matters to be considered during regular sessions.</p><p class="p5">S.B. 14 that sets up a hybrid retirement system for future state employees is up for Senate consideration today. It would establish a deferred benefit plan like the one currently in place along with a defined contribution plan like a 401(K). The plan would only affect members of the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System.</p><p class="p5">Two Senate measures up for debate deal with felons working in the state Department of Insurance and felons holding public office.</p><p class="p5">The House today will debate House Bills 13 and 14 that authorize teacher retirees to return to work and continue to collect benefit checks subject to an earnings limitation of 25 percent of their benefit amount. H.B. 13 is for presenters of professional development, and H.B. 14 is for retired interpreters, educational translators and certified educators of the hearing impaired.</p><p class="p5">Restructuring of the hunting and fishing license system by the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is also on today’s schedule. H.B. 687 outlines the present and proposed license costs.</p><p class="p5">The House Tuesday will debate judicial fees, teacher rights, cosmetology fees, human trafficking and drainage district fees.</p><p class="p5">Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Moss Bluff, is sponsoring H.B. 55. It increases the criminal court costs that are assessed to certain defendants in the 14th Judicial District Court in Calcasieu Parish from $5 to a sum no greater than $10. It also increases the civil filing fee from $3 to a sum no greater than $20.</p><p class="p5">Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek is author of H.B. 802 that increases the maximum compensation for gravity drainage district commissioners in Calcasieu Parish from $100 per day to $150 per day.</p><p class="p5">H.B. 696 authorizes a retiree of the Teachers Retirement System to return to work as a tutor and continue to receive retirement benefit payments. The retiree would be subject to a 25 percent earnings limitation.</p><p class="p5">The House Wednesday will hear H.B. 432 that would require any school bus, truck-trailer, semitrailer or any combination of those vehicles to travel in the far right-hand lane on interstate highways in East Baton Rouge Parish during afternoon peak traffic hours.</p><p class="p5">Senate bills will be heard by the House Thursday and Friday.</p><p class="p5">The House Appropriations Committee will hear bills Monday and Tuesday. Rep. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, is sponsor of H.B. 144 that creates the Louisiana Jobs Now Fund to help fund postsecondary education degrees and certificate production in high-demand fields. Private entities would provide no less than a 25 percent match to state funding.</p><p class="p5">The committee will also hear bills dealing with a Louisiana Checkbook website designed to open public access to state spending, setting a state expenditure limit and the calling of a constitutional convention.</p><p class="p5">The House Ways and Means Committee will continue to hear bills dealing with the state’s capital construction budget, called the capital outlay bill.</p>