BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana won't be creating statewide regulations for ride-hailing services like Uber. It won't abolish the death penalty. Marriage license standards won't change, neither will divorce rules. Gas taxes — or really any other tax — won't grow higher. The state won't meddle in local decisions about Confederate monuments. And if Louisiana has a "sanctuary city," it won't be penalized by the state.
Those are among the many ideas discarded by Louisiana's legislators in the current lawmaking session. The measures were killed directly in the House or Senate, or lawmakers scrapped their own bills, realizing they had no chance of passage before session ends Thursday.
Call it a session of casualties.
So many bills have been jettisoned over the two-month lawmaking period that the session might be known more for what has failed among the more than 900 measures filed for consideration, than by what will pass.
Lawmakers once again struck down a proposal to allow Louisiana residents to carry a concealed gun without a permit. The House refused to ban corporal punishment at public schools, where more than half of districts allow paddling and spanking for misbehavior. Efforts to outlaw capital punishment for offenses committed after July 1 couldn't gain enough traction to pass, as even one of the bill's sponsors turned against it.
College students who receive tuition payments through the TOPS program won't encounter new residency or repayment requirements. In fact, the nearly $300 million won't face any substantive changes, despite repeated legislative hand-wringing over its price tag. The House agreed to modestly toughen TOPS criteria for future high school students, but the proposal was withdrawn in the Senate amid strong opposition.
Gov. John Bel Edwards had a particularly rough road this session. His minimum wage hike proposal was killed. His equal pay bills stalled. And the Democratic governor's tax package never got out of the majority-Republican House committee where it was assigned.
Though lawmakers talked about the need for tax reform since last year, no deals appear likely on major tax changes, with dozens of ideas for redesigning Louisiana's system floated and blocked.
Republicans, particularly in the conservative House where most tax bills must start, stymied most anything that could be considered a tax hike. Edwards, Democrats and some Republicans who wanted to rewrite tax laws to help fill a $1 billion budget gap — looming in mid-2018 when temporary taxes expire — have seen those ideas go nowhere.
"We do not have the will to solve the problem," said a frustrated Rep. Barry Ivey, a Republican who worked for months on his version of a tax reform package but couldn't get it through the Legislature.
Republican Rep. Steve Carter was similarly irritated as he abandoned his effort to raise Louisiana's gas tax to pour more money into a $13 billion backlog of road and bridge work.
"We've got to find some way to solve this problem. Despite that, I'm sad to say we've fallen short of the votes," Carter announced last week.
And while lawmakers have complained they have too many restrictions on how they can budget and where they can cut, efforts to unlock protected areas of the budget were unable to gain traction. A broader effort to hold a convention to rewrite portions of the Louisiana Constitution dealing with finances also failed.
On nonfinancial issues, voters won't decide whether they want to ban certain traffic cameras and won't have an easier time trying to recall elected officials. Drivers won't get to skip their vehicle inspections. Louisiana universities will continue to have official alcoholic beverages affiliated with their brand. New protections won't be added into law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The House killed a bill that would have cut the wait to six months for a no-fault divorce when the married couple has children under 18. Senators decided against rewriting a law that requires people to produce a birth certificate to get married, instead letting the courts resolve a legal dispute that has temporarily blocked the statute.
Death of the proposals this year doesn't mean debate is done. Expect many of the bills to be resurrected in future sessions, since few ideas disappear permanently at the Louisiana Capitol.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte has covered Louisiana politics for The Associated Press since 2000. Follow her at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte
Posted on Mon, June 5, 2017
by By MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press