House members vote to allow state to punish local officials that reduce law enforcement funding

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

A Louisiana House of Representatives committee on Monday advanced two measures that would allow state lawmakers to punish local officials for cutting their law enforcement budgets.

House Bill 38 by Rep. Lance Harris, an Alexandria Republican who is running for Congress, would require university, municipality and parish leaders to come before the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget to justify a cut of 10 percent or more. The committee could recommend the entity be ineligible for capital outlay or sales tax dedications for the next fiscal year.

House Bill 67 by Rep. Raymond Crews, a Bossier City Republican, would allow JLCB to reduce appropriations of sales tax dedications to a municipality, or the parish that contains the municipality, that reduces the annual operating budget of its municipal police department by any amount.

The committee primarily debated Harris’ bill, which it heard first. Harris said he was motivated by movements to “defund” police in other states but didn’t know of any Louisiana cities that were slashing law enforcement spending.

Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Priarieville, said it was appropriate for state lawmakers to seek to control local law enforcement budgets in part because of the state’s high crime rates. Rep. Rodney Lyons, D-Harvey, said the measure would usurp local officials’ rightful authority.

Rep. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, called Harris’ bill a political stunt.

“I sent you a campaign contribution,” Carter told Harris. “I want it back.”