Thursday, April 18, 2024

Louisiana lawmakers target tax phase-out, gender bills for possible overrides

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

Lawmakers could take up numerous bills vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards when they return to Baton Rouge on Tuesday for a five-day veto override session.

In total, Edwards vetoed 28 bills from the 2023 legislative session that ended June 8, and the Louisiana constitution requires an override session of not more than five days unless a majority of lawmakers opt out. Lawmakers on Thursday confirmed a session will start Tuesday, which gives them through Saturday to attempt to override the Democratic governor.

Some of the vetoed bills passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature by wide margins, some mirrored bills Edwards did approve, and others came as retribution for lawmakers who voted against the governor’s spending priorities.

Perhaps the most consequential is Senate Bill 1, by Franklin Republican Sen. Bret Allain, to phase out Louisiana’s corporate franchise tax, which Allain described as “the worst tax Louisiana has on the books” because it discourages investment.

SB 1 aims to reduce the franchise tax by 25% per year if corporate income tax revenues remain above $600 million. Allain tied SB 1 to SB 6, also vetoed by Edwards, to reduce the project facility expense rebate in the state’s Quality Jobs Program to help offset the revenue lost from the franchise tax phase-out.

Edwards agreed the franchise tax is “antiquated and should be structurally reformed or repealed,” but argued in his veto message that with the unknown impact of changes to the tax structure two years ago and a looming sunset of a 45-cent sales tax in 2025 the phase-out now would be “unwise.”

Allain has expressed disappointment about the veto, which would maintain the second-highest franchise tax in the nation at 0.275% with no limits. SB 1 cleared both chambers with only one lawmaker voting against, while the vote for SB 6 was unanimous.

Three bills dealing with transgender issues could also face override votes: House Bill 648 to ban gender transitions for minors, HB 81 to prohibit school employees from using students’ preferred pronouns without parental consent, and HB 466 to ban discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools.

Sponsors of those bills, approved more along party lines, contend they’re intended to protect children and families, while opponents including Edwards argue they’re focused on culture issues that impact a small number of vulnerable youth. Edwards also cited legal challenges in other states to bills similar to HB 648.

Edwards’ vetoes also included cuts local funding for lawmakers who voted against increasing the state’s spending cap; HB 182 to prohibit vaccine discrimination for school employment or attendance; HB 205 for additional compensation for teachers and other school employees; HB 646 to strengthen the annual voter canvas to improve the accuracy of voter rolls; and HB 659 to create a database of criminals who target minors.

Others would establish a 25-foot safety zone for police; allow a court to determine if parole can be denied to “dangerous offenders;” mandate notification requirements for insurance companies; ban central bank digital currency; increase health care pricing transparency; and changes to the Judicial Council of the state Supreme Court.

Republicans overturned Edwards’ veto of congressional redistricting legislation last year after failing to override vetoes in the state’s first veto override session in 2021. Veto overrides require a vote of two-thirds of lawmakers from both chambers. Republicans gained supermajorities necessary to override for the first time in state history in March when Rep. Francis Thompson switched parties to join Republicans.

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