It's over. The 2007 session of the Louisiana legislature has come to an end, and despite some positive highlights, lawmakers are likely to get a pounding for what they didn't do. The pay scale of Louisiana teachers, for the first time ever, has been lifted to the southern regional average. The legislature has plugged a billion dollars into the "Road Home" hurricane recovery program, which was running out of money. Both houses have passed a bill outlawing cockfighting, but with a one-year shutdown period. It now goes to the governor. So, what about the big item that didn't get done?
Using one parliamentary tactic after another, the legislature has killed the long-running effort to tighten the state ethics law for Louisiana politicians. What will the rest of the country think? WAFB Capitol Correspondent Caroline Moses reports on the ethics question, and the future of a state-owned insurance company that affects us all. It looks like we will not see ethics reform, but we will see some insurance tax credits and a compromise on how to get the state out of the insurance business.
Senator James David Cain (R-Dry Creek) says, "Mainly, I didn't want the cherry-picking going on before we had the chance to bid it out. She met me more than half way, I can honestly say." Senator Cain wants to sell the Citizens Insurance Company, and get the state out of the insurance business. He wants to sell it to a private insurance company as one big package deal, but Representative Karen Carter wants to give out cash incentives to multiple private companies in hopes they will open up shop here in Louisiana. The two worked out a compromise to get rid of Citizens by first trying to sell it as one package, and then if that fails after about 90 days, they'll hand out $100 million worth of cash incentives to different private companies. Also, a last minute amendment got tacked on to give insurance tax credits back to you. Representative Karen Carter (D-New Orleans) says, "That's new. We haven't talked about it. We heard a lot about mama wants tax credits. Well, mama's going to get some tax credits with respect to higher rates in insurance."
If you paid higher rates from 2005-2007, you will get some cash back in next year's tax returns. Another big money issue: Will legislators and the governor be forced to tell you where they get their money? Representative Michael Jackson of Baton Rouge has a bill to make them do just that. It first included local officials in the list for mandatory disclosure. Representative Jackson (D-Baton Rouge) says, "If we're going to have income disclosure, let's talk about it across the board, let's not isolate the legislature. Let's talk about everybody." Senator Robert Adley of Benton says the legislature should not tell other bodies of government what to do, so in the name of compromise, local officials got taken out of the bill. Senator Adley (D-Benton) says, "The only reason locals were ever put in this bill was in an effort to kill it. The legislature does this time and time again."
That's exactly what happened. The House and Senate could not agree on a compromise, so legislators still do not have to tell you how they get their money. The conference committee of three senators and three House members could not agree on a compromise. The issue cannot be brought up again for a vote until another session is called.