Issues resurface as legislative session looms

Sen. Louie Bernard

Bernard speaks on centralized sales and use tax, 911 operations and emergency FEMA funding

By Times Staff

State Senator Louie Bernard and his legislative colleagues have a heavy agenda facing them in April. They’ll be addressing reapportionment, a return to party primaries, broadband service to rural areas, highway funding and a budget gap that doesn’t seem to every go away. However, Bernard does look for a couple of issues that were addressed in the past session to resurface.

“One of the things that I have absolute unanimous option against is the centralized sale and use tax,” he pointed out “You know where businesses can come to one spot, like in Texas, and they can sign up for what they need to have.” “In Louisiana,” he said, “if you do businesses in 13 parishes, you have to go every parish and do that.” “Now there’s a natural fear, that number one they are not going to collect it like we would. From Baton Rouge they are not going to collect as efficiently as we do in our own parishes. It’s our own stuff.” Bernard said a committee has been working on that for the last five or six months and they are going to present a report.

“I’m sure that report is going to result in a lot of things, not the least of which is a tremendous saving to the state. He added, “That money will be looked at and people will say golly I didn’t think we could save that much money. That will be the carrot to try and get it. There are a lot of people wanting this to happen.”

“I think what’s going to happen is a hybrid approach and some compromise. But it could be something totally jettison because I can tell you, I’ve very sensitive to the fact my school board, parish councils, police juries, town halls and sheriffs office do not want this,” Bernard said. “But I think it’s our responsibility as leaders to look at the evidence presented on anything and make a determination after that.

“ The contention is if you are trying to go in and start a business, you are looking at the state that has the least obstacles you have to deal with to be able to get that business up and running. “I’m a little bit skeptical of that passing because it is opposed by so many people,” he added. Bernard also sees another committee’s work coming up this session. That was the efforts to return to closed primaries. He also believes implementing Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Early Childhood program funding will come back. The efforts were shelved when the pandemic struck.

The state senator says he has a couple of bills he intends to file. Since this is a fiscal session, each lawmaker may only submit five pieces of legislation. He currently serves as vice-chair of the Senate Insurance Committee and says there are a couple of pieces of legislation the insurance industry has asked him to be lead author on. He said he’s looking at a bill that would enable small hospitals to be eligible for emergency FEMA funding. There’s also one that would work with 911 systems that would explore identifying specific situations at addresses for emergency responders. He said it may alert responders, for example, that a resident has special needs children, autistic or that someone in the house has a mental illness history.

Bernard does see a special session to deal with reapportionment but not for a second stimulus package from the federal government should one be coming to the state. He also thinks there’s going to be a desire to repeal personal and corporate income taxes. “You know, connected with that, the idea is more people and business would be attracted to come to Louisiana if we were like so many other states.” Bernard pointed out that in so many of these things we are talking about, Louisiana seems to be an outlier and said a lot of people believe the notion is if it’s working for others, why can’t it work here.

“Part and parcel to that is a change in property taxes,” he added. Local governments could be increasing their tax. “I look for that to be floated but don’t think it will come to fruition,” Bernard said.