We don’t always think about our delegation in Baton Rouge, but the things they accomplish – or fail to accomplish – make a difference in real people’s lives.
For generations, the state’s lawmakers were complicit in virtually ignoring Louisiana’s public schools. Our children are still paying the price for that failure. And recent efforts to balance the state’s books on the backs of colleges and universities will have rippling fallout that lasts for years – or longer. Their continued inability to formulate any long-term approach to solve the large and growing problem of our crumbling infrastructure can be felt in every mile we drive on state roads.
And on and on. Louisiana is rife with problems that are exacerbated by the fact that our state is largely rural and that our people are largely poor. But, while we’re not the only state that faces those problems, we tend to come up with fewer solutions. That is a direct reflection of the collective leadership we have seen over a period of decades – more than enough time for answers to be crafted and put into effect.
While there is ample room for well-placed criticism, though, we should be sure to hand out praise when that is merited. The Legislature convened Monday for its annual session, and some local lawmakers have proposals that will make Louisiana a better place for all of us to live. In the past, that alone seemed to doom some good proposals. Let’s hope for better results this time.
First up is Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, who is pushing several good bills.
Magee is proposing one measure that could eventually lead to a simplified and consolidated method of collecting sales tax, a move that in turn would allow the state to collect sales taxes on online sales. Right now, Louisiana’s 64 parishes each collect sales taxes – imposing an unfair burden on businesses that operate in multiple parishes. In addition, because collecting taxes that way prevents us from taxing online sales, we are hurting our own retail businesses by putting them at an unfair disadvantage to online sellers.
“Why wouldn’t we want a streamlined process? Why would we want a Byzantine way of doing things instead of one thing,” Magee asked.
Good question. I imagine we will hear a chorus of people – some of the usual defenders of our pathetic status quo – who have a stake in the current system and will resist every effort at reform.
Magee has also proposed a bill that would use some of the money Louisiana received for its damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to pay for infrastructure work, most notably for La. 1, arguably this region’s most important road.
House Bill 578 provides dedicated funding for infrastructure preservation, bridge and safety projects by using money set aside for economic damage incurred by the state resulting from the Deepwater Horizon spill and moratorium. The bayou area, and its supporting infrastructure, felt the brunt of those economic damages. That’s why one of the projects that would receive direct financial support from the bill is the La. 1 Highway Improvement Project,” Magee said in a column published here on Wednesday.
Magee isn’t alone in bringing good ideas to the forefront in Baton Rouge.
State Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, has a bill that would restrict what animal shelters can do with the homeless dogs and cats in their care.
House Bill 454 would prohibit shelters from euthanizing animals so their bodies can be used for research and prohibits the sale of live animals for research. Further, it requires shelters that do give dead animals over for research to put up a sign to that effect so people dropping off dogs or cats will know where they might be headed.
There are more good ideas than can fit in this column, but that’s a pretty healthy start on what can be a confusing and frustrating time of the year for our legislators.
Good job, folks, and good luck with them.
-- Editorial Page Editor Michael Gorman can be reached at 448-7612 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mikegormanla.