Senate panel clears retirement debt plan

Some one-time revenues would be directed to state employee and teachers’ retirement system debt payments under a measure that cleared a state Senate panel Thursday.

Without objection, the Senate Finance Committee approved House Bill 384, a proposed constitutional amendment, and shipped it to the Senate.

The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, would require that a minimum of 5 percent of any state dollars certified as nonrecurring go toward payment of certain pension systems’ unfunded accrued liabilities in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 fiscal years.

After those years, the minimum amount of nonrecurring revenues to be directed to the UAL would be 10 percent payments would equal 10 percent,

UAL, as unfunded accrued liabilities are better known, is the money that would be required to pay off all benefits if the systems shut down today. According to the Legislative Fiscal Office that debt is $9.45 billion today.

The committee approved similar Senate legislation on Wednesday.

The proposed constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature then passage by voters in an Oct. 22 election.

The measure now heads to the Senate for debate.

Vehicle tax break vote expected

A proposed sales tax break on the purchase of motor vehicles for use by people with disabilities is pending a state Senate vote.

House Bill 508 covers purchase of vehicles that have been or will be modified in accordance with a medical prescription for use by a person who has permanent, limited movement of body extremities and loss of physical functions.

The state Department of Revenue would develop procedures for claiming of the sales tax rebate and require documentation of the necessity of the modified vehicle and receipts associated with the purchase and work done.

HB508 sponsor state Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, said she filed the legislation on behalf of a constituent facing big bills on the vehicle purchase and modifications.

The tax break would apply to purchases made on or after Jan. 1, 2010.

The Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee shipped the measure to the Senate for debate.

House passes bill freezing school aid

Legislation that would generally freeze state aid to public schools moved within one step of final approval Thursday.

The measure, House Concurrent Resolution 130, passed the House 87-4.

A few hours later the Senate Education Committee endorsed the plan, leaving only a Senate vote before final passage.

The legislation would provide $3.4 billion to help fund public schools for the 2011-12 school year.

The plan would provide $3,855 per student for about 670,000 public school students statewide.

The freeze was requested by Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Lawmakers can only accept or reject BESE’s request but cannot change it.

Planned Parenthood bill in 2nd committee

A call for Congress to stop funding Planned Parenthood has been sent to a second state Senate committee.

Without discussion Thursday, the Senate agreed to send the proposal to the Senate Finance Committee. The shuffling of state Rep. Frank Hoffmann’s House Concurrent Resolution 54 to a second committee adds another hurdle to passage as the clock begins to run out on the 2011 legislative session.

Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using federal funding to provide abortions, except in the case of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. And in Louisiana, Planned Parenthood does not provide abortions at all.

But Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, said that giving the organization federal funding for services such as screenings for breast and cervical cancer indirectly helps Planned Parenthood provide abortions.