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Notes and quotes from the Louisiana Legislature

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm •  Published: May 3, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana House unanimously agreed Thursday to expand a 10-year local property tax exemption and make it available to more businesses, but only after they included more hurdles for businesses to clear before the tax break could be offered.

The package of bills (House Bills 674 and 694) sought by the Jindal administration would allow parishes to offer the tax breaks to digital media businesses, data centers, renewable energy firms, corporate headquarters and research and development firms — if they have a majority of their sales out of the state and make a capital investment in Louisiana greater than $25 million.

Local governing bodies would have to decide if they want to participate before the tax break could be offered to companies as part of a state and local incentive package. They could decide whether to use the program on a project-by-project basis.

Lawmakers also required that local school boards, if they would lose tax revenue, be involved in signing off on the tax break. Supporters of the change said schools are financially struggling and should decide whether they are willing to give up further money they would be getting from property taxes.

"I think if the projects are really significant projects for the area, you're going to be able to get the school boards, the municipalities" to agree, said Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, sponsor of the proposal.

The measure heads next to the Senate for debate. Before the property tax break can be expanded, it also would require a constitutional change approved by voters in a statewide election.

The tax break could cost up to $25 million in lost local tax dollars by the fifth year of its availability, according to financial estimates. But Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said the tax revenue that would be lost is tax income the local communities aren't getting today.

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A proposal to create tax breaks for donations to public schools received unanimous approval Thursday from the Louisiana House.

The measure by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, came in response to a Jindal administration bill, which has won final legislative passage, to give a near dollar-for-dollar tax rebate for people and businesses that donate to nonprofits that give scholarships for children to attend private schools.

Jackson's bill (House Bill 1006) is a smaller tax break. It would give taxpayers a rebate for donations made to public schools for books, technology and other programs. The rebate would be 25 percent of the donation if it went to a school graded with a "C'' in the state accountability system, 50 percent for a "D'' school and 75 percent for an "F'' school.

The proposal heads next to the Senate for debate.

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In other legislative action:

—A measure to toughen penalties for buying, selling or carrying a gun with a removed or obliterated serial number received the backing of the House. Present law carries a prison sentence up to six months. The bill (House Bill 4) by Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, would set a mandatory minimum sentence for at least one year for a first offense and at least two years for a second or later offense.

—Both the House and Senate have backed a proposal (Senate Bill 435) that would require massage parlors, spas, hotels, strip clubs and truck stops to post information about the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. The measure by Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, heads back to the Senate for approval of House changes, before reaching final passage.

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Online:

Louisiana Legislature: www.legis.la.gov