Rep. Tony Bacala gives update on legislature session

Staff Report

Republican District 59 Rep. Tony Bacala provided an update on the regular session of the legislature.

Rep. Tony Bacala

The retired Chief Deputy of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office summarized the session, in which 959 bills and 37 constitutional amendments were filed. Of those, 486 bills were passed and signed into law, and nine amendments were passed. The amendments now await voter approval.

Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a total of 28 bills passed by the legislature, and line-item vetoed parts of another three fiscal bills.

Bacala had four of his bills passed and signed by the governor: an adoption reform bill, a law enforcement bill that provides a means of suspending or revoking police credentials for cause, a bill that treats military retirement income the same for retiree widows as for retires, and a revision of the fee structure for Wildlife and Fisheries.

One of his bills passed the legislature, but was vetoed by Edwards. It would have identified "deadbeat" parents and hold them accountable for Medicaid costs to the state, according to Bacala.

He also pointed out the collaborative effort of Ascension Parish's legislative delegation. One removed the scenic byways designation for Bayou Manchac so it can be cleared of dead trees and debris to improve flow and mitigate flooding.

In addition, the delegation secured $1.66 million in direct appropriations for projects in the area. Bacala said the one of the most significant was $870,000 to the Ascension Parish School Board for traffic flow improvements around the new high school campus, Prairieville High School, which is being constructed on Parker Road.

The parish delegation also secured over $27.13 million for projects in the capital outlay bill. Bacala said projects in capital outlay differ from direct appropriations for local projects as they often require bonds to be secured for specific projects, and some funding secured over time on an as-needed basis for multi-year work.

Among those projects are funds for an Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office substation, and improvements to Hwy. 30 in Gonzales.

Bacala pointed out the 2021 session was a fiscal one, with tax reform taking the forefront. He said significant pieces of legislation included a set of tax reform measure designed to stabilize Louisiana's finance and make the state more attractive to new businesses.

According to Bacala, the package measures are tax neutral, meaning that overall, taxes collected by the state will remain the same. Key components of the package, which will require approval of constitutional amendments, moves the state closer to centralized sales tax collection, eliminates franchise taxes for 85 percent of filers, and trades federal income tax deductibility for lower income tax rates.

Bacala said centralized collection of sales taxes and elimination of franchise taxes are important to making Louisiana more attractive to business investment. 

"These measures put us in line with the rest of the country and will be a significant step forward improving our business climate ratings," he said.

Louisiana is one of just two states in the country that allow businesses and people to deduct federal income taxes paid from state income taxes. He said this makes state finances unpredictable, and could lead to another "fiscal cliff."

To offset the elimination of deductibility of federal income taxes paid, tax brackets would be reduced so that overall income taxes paid would remain about the same. Individually, some would see small reductions in what they owe, while others would see small increases.

Bacala also delved into the "hot topic" of the moment, which is the possibility of a veto session to begin July 20. Constitutionally, veto sessions are automatic unless a majority of the members of the House of Representatives, or of the Senate vote against convening one. It takes two-thirds of the members of both chambers to override a veto.

In the event of a veto session, he said the two vetoed bills that are most likely to be challenged are a bill to forbid transgender females from competing in female high school and college sporting events, and a bill that would allow the concealed carry of a firearm by law-abiding citizens without a license.