Gov. Bobby Jindal will not allow unaffiliated political candidates to run as “Independent.”
Jindal vetoed 14 bills Friday, including the House Bill 533 omnibus elections legislation that would have changed the wording on ballots for unaffiliated candidates from “No Party” to “Independent.”
Jindal also signed 38 bills into law Friday, including statutory language that connects a 4-cent cigarette tax renewal he opposed to a constitutional amendment to set aside more funds to merit-based TOPS scholarships.
Jindal has signed 402 bills passed during the 2011 Regular Session, which adjourned June 23, according to the Louisiana News Bureau. Twenty bills remain to be acted upon by the governor.
He has vetoed a total of 16 bills, according to the LNB count.
Jindal also vetoed some tax credits, legislation that would have exempted sales taxes on bottled water purchases and legislation that would have trimmed public school suspensions for certain students to give them more classroom-learning time.
Jindal vetoed HB533 with the argument that state law bans a political party from being named “Independent” or “the Independent Party.”
State Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston and HB533 sponsor, said some Republicans have “fears and concerns” of right-wing conservatives campaigning as “more conservative than they are.”
Gallot said many unaffiliated voters and candidates believe it is unfair they can only be called “No Party.”
“Nonaffiliated voters are the fastest-growing segment of registered voters,” Gallot said. “To ignore the fact that some people are fed up with all the parties, I think is doing them a disservice.”
Jindal stated he vetoed Senate Bill 21 by state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, because it would cost the state $8.3 million for the new fiscal year to exempt sales taxes on bottled water.
Riser said the current tax is improper.
“Most people don’t realize there’s zero taxes on soft drinks, but yet we tax water,” Riser said.
The governor also vetoed tax credits for remediation of hazardous waste sites, called “brownfields”; credits for energy-efficient appliances purchased by the elderly; and credits to insurers investing in an entrepreneurial aid program.
Also vetoed was Senate Bill 67 by state Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, to shorten school suspensions for offenses like uniform violations and tardiness. Broome argued it is more important for students to continue to learn, rather than be forced out of school for more minor discipline issues.
Jindal vetoed it for not wanting to limit “a teacher’s right to use a variety of tools and strategies in his or her own classroom,” as well as limiting local school district policies.
The governor also vetoed Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, that would allow employers to withdraw some or all of their employees from the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana provided they continue to pay a portion of the “unfunded accrued liability.”
Jindal stated he vetoed it because SB6 “unnecessarily ties the payment of state retirement debt to much-needed reforms such as greater autonomy to public schools” and creates a “deterrent to educational reform efforts.”
After Jindal vetoed the cigarette tax renewal, the House attached the tax to Jindal’s TOPS proposals in Senate Bills 52 and 53 by state Sen. John Alario, R-Westwego.
SB53, the constitutional amendment, goes to voters to consider on the Oct. 22 ballot. Jindal signed the SB53 companion on Friday.
Jindal also signed House Bill 477 by Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, that critics said would strip $27 million in the state’s artificial reef building project and put the money in state general fund coffers.
Other signed bills include:
• House Bill 377 by state Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, to stop lawmakers who are members of a retirement system by virtue of public sector jobs from using their legislative service to increase pension benefits.
• House Bill 342 by state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, to require those seeking public contracts to certify that they have registered with and use the federal E-Verify system to determine whether their employees are legal citizens or legal immigrants.
• House Bill 417 by state Rep. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, to make it easier for retired teachers to return as substitutes without jeopardizing their pensions.