Tit-for-tat when senators appear before House panel


BATON ROUGE — It was payback time in a House committee on Thursday.

After Senate Democrats chastised Republican leader Rep. Lance Harris of Alexandria on Wednesday over a bill that raised less revenue than the governor says is needed, a Republican-led House committee on Thursday grilled two of those Democrats and rejected or deferred bills they had proposed.

The House Ways and Means Committee put off a bill by Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, and voted down two bills by Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell, D-New Orleans, the chair of the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, adding to the tensions between the chambers as they rush to see if they can agree on revenue and budget bills before the special session ends on Monday.

Both senators had intensely questioned Harris’ budget numbers Wednesday night and rebuked him for refusing to make changes to raise significantly more revenue to address the $648 fiscal cliff that is projected to occur when temporary tax measures expire on July 1.

Luneau’s bill, which had passed the Senate, would have made permanent reductions to certain tax credits and rebates on corporate incentive programs.

Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, proposed retaining these tax credits and rebates and cutting instead a credit film producers receive to shoot in Louisiana.

When Luneau noted that he had proposed a bill to eliminate the film tax credit in the past, Morris said, “We might have a bill right here to do away with it, you know, because we have the power to amend bills. Are you familiar with this process?”

“If you want to kill this bill today and do away with it, this is a good way to do it,” Luneau responded before Morris interrupted him to call for his colleague’s bill to be involuntarily deferred.

“I would like to have my say because I let Rep. Harris have his say last night, I can assure you,” Luneau said.

Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, made a point of order to allow Luneau to finish his statement.

“It’s OK, Rep. Ivey,” Luneau said, “I sure didn’t expect any courtesy today.”

One of Morrell’s bills would have increased the earned income tax credit, a measure intended to relieve the poor of the state who would be disproportionately affected by the state sales tax that the Legislature intends to debate on Friday.