Jindal to mark 40th with low-key event

Gov. Bobby Jindal is no longer 30something.

Jindal celebrates his 40th birthday Friday.

The governor’s press secretary, Kyle Plotkin, said there are no plans for a huge party to mark the occasion.

Plotkin said Jindal is “having a small group of friends and family over to celebrate.”

Group urges end to income tax repeal

The head of a nonpartisan government watchdog group urged lawmakers Thursday to scrap attempts to repeal Louisiana’s income tax, saying it would damage colleges, health care and public safety.

“It’s time to put the brakes on this discussion and take a reality check for a moment,” the president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, Barry Erwin, said in a statement.

State Senators backed Senate Bill 259 to study a repeal of the personal and corporate income taxes, rather than an outright removal. The bill would create a 13-member study commission. But House leaders are considering whether to return the proposal by Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, to its original form, with the taxes phased out over 10 years starting in 2012.

Marionneaux said a repeal would help attract new people to Louisiana and keep residents here.

Erwin said the state’s general fund has dropped by about $2 billion over the last few years as lawmakers also have cut hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. He said lawmakers have yet to figure out how to close a $1.6 billion shortfall in the upcoming 2011-12 budget and shouldn’t be talking about cutting another $2.7 billion in tax revenue in later years.

“What we’re seeing is a dangerous game of political chicken, with citizens stuck in the middle. They’re being led to believe we can quit paying most taxes and somehow everything will be better, with little discussion about what it means for the future of our state and the impact on our children.

“We should aspire to greatness, not cheapness,” Erwin said. “The current political rhetoric does a disservice to our people and should stop. Now.”

House advances bill for new day care rule

The House approved legislation Thursday that would ask day care centers to install devices to ensure children are not accidentally left in vehicles.

The device would alert driver to walk to the back of a van once the vehicle is turned off.

“That would ensure that they check to make sure it’s clear,” said state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge. She sponsored House Bill 572, which was approved on a 57-20 vote.

Operators say the alarms cost $288 and another $50-$75 to install.

Currently, day care centers use spotters to ensure that all the children are removed from vehicles.

HB572, originally would have required certain day care centers to install child safety alarms in any vehicles used to transport youngsters.

But the legislation was made permissive, not mandatory, under an amendment approved by the House Transportation Committee.

HB572 now moves to the state Senate.

House backs bill to cut state payroll

A bid to cut state government’s payroll by at least 5,000 jobs a year for the next three budget years received House backing with a 73-14 vote Thursday.

House Bill 306, sponsored by state Rep. Dee Richard, No Party-Thibodaux, has been pushed by Treasurer John Kennedy as a way to shrink state government spending to cope with budget shortfalls. Richard said the jobs could be cut through attrition by not filling one-third of the vacant positions that come up each year and wouldn’t require layoffs.

The state has about 81,000 full-time workers, according to a legislative fiscal office review. The proposal would require a $500 million annual savings by the 2013-14 budget year.

It heads next to the state Senate for debate.

The Jindal administration has said the plan is based on faulty figures and would damage staffing levels at war veterans homes, medical facilities and prisons where employee turnover is highest but the jobs are most needed to be filled. No one from the Governor’s Office, however, has testified against Richard’s proposal.

House passes bill on citizenship status

The House backed a requirement that employers in Louisiana verify the citizenship status of workers before hiring them. House Bill 646 by state Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, heads next to the state Senate for debate.

Employers could use a birth certificate, immigration papers or the federal E-Verify system to determine that employees are eligible to work in the United States.