Legislators prepare bills for 2013 session
The 2013 legislative session is just a few short months away, and the first round of bill requests must be in Baton Rouge by the end of January.
District 10 State Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Minden, said that while his list is short, the quality of the bills makes up for the quantity.
"The budget is going to be a huge, huge deal," Reynolds said. "And there is one group that wants to get together a Constitutional Convention and 'de-dedicate' some of these funds because we just keep going back to the same well and we keep killing higher education and health and hospitals, as well as roads and bridges because they are funded with the general fund."
Chances of that happening are slim, Reynolds said. A better proposal, he said, has been made by State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton.
"Robert said why don't we dedicate everything – at this year's funding level – with a Constitutional Amendment that says if revenue is projected to go down, everything across the board will decrease," Reynolds said. "Then, if the funds go up, it increases and we make this year's budget the baseline."
Louisiana's legislators vote on a budget every year, while other states, such as Texas, approve a budget every two years.
"They have something similar to this," Reynolds said. "I think it's a great idea. It's simple, common sense. So, I will get it started in the house and Robert (Adley) will get it started in the Senate. Right now, the two staffs are working on it."
Reynolds was scheduled to meet with staff from the House in Baton Rouge today (Thursday, January 17).
Another bill Reynolds is proposing would make the State Superintendent of Education an elected position. Currently, the position is an appointed one that is confirmed by BESE (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education).
"The idea behind appointing the superintendent was to take politics out of education," Reynolds said. "I don't care what you do, politics is going to be involved."
Reynolds said he would prefer the State Superintendent of Education be experienced, knowledgeable, educated in the field and answer to the people.
"A couple of superintendents we've had have had very little experience being a superintendent," he said.
His proposal requires a Constitutional Amendment.
"It would state that not only must the superintendent be elected, but he would have certain parameters which he would have to qualify for in order to run," he said. "It would have to do with experience, degrees and such as that."
The election would be in a regular election cycle, he said.
"We wouldn't have a special election for it because that costs money, and I don't want to do that," he said. "So in 2014, it would come up again and the people can say 'yes' or 'no.'"
A bill Reynolds is considering to file would require Internet sales taxes. There is already a push, he said, to do away with income taxes and raise sales taxes by three percent.
"Here, in Webster Parish, sales tax would be about 12 and a half percent," he said. "So, then you get a business that sells a product that people can buy on the Internet – and we do a very poor job of collecting sales tax on Internet products sold in Louisiana. Therefore, our local, small businesses would be under a great strain. I don't know that they could survive it."
By purchasing items on the Internet that don't require sales taxes, consumers cut money from local services, Reynolds pointed out.
"It costs money to fix roads," he said. "That money comes from sales taxes."
Reynolds said the company providing the product is responsible for collecting the sales tax, sending it to the state, and the state must then disperse it to the proper entities.
The Legislature will be in session April 8 until June 6.