Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sierra Club Delta Chapter Legislative Update June 12, 2011

This is our current update on bills which we are actively opposing or supporting. Your comments, suggestions and support are welcome.

The current Louisiana legislative session ends on June 23 which is only eleven days from this writing. So it is extremely unlikely that any bill that has not made it out of its first committee will move to passage by committees and both House and Senate. It is also a problem that several bills that we support are waiting for consideration by Senate Finance Committee which is bottled up with consideration of the state budget. Also important to note is that two bills (SB 97 and HB 389) and one resolution (HCR 48) which directly address the effects of the BP disaster have been pulled from the normal rotation of their consideration. We have seen hostile proposed amendments for these bills designed to gut their original intent. Bill sponsors are trying to put language back in that restores some purpose but all such hostile tactics reduce the possibility of making it through the legislative process. We are seeing a consistent campaign by the Oil and Gas industry to remove any mention of accountability for the BP disaster from legislative bills. It is amazing that little more than one year after the BP oil disaster we may see absolutely no mention of it in State legislation.

In order to follow progress of any of these bills you can go to the State Legislature website at Action items are listed in bold.

Legislative Bills which we oppose:

HB 290 Burns – Repeals the Wild Louisiana Stamp. This bill would have required bird watchers on State Wildlife Management Areas to obtain a hunting license instead of the currently offered Wild Louisiana Stamp. Pulled from first hearing, appears to be dead.

HB 296 Greene – Diverts money held in the Artificial Reef Development Fund to other purposes. This bill has passed the House and is referred to Senate Finance Committee.

HB 321 Doerge – Sale of water from Lake Bistineau. This legislation would give local governments authority to sell water from Lake Bistineau, with LDWF in advisory role. Funds would go to LDWF for control of noxious plants and for other benefits to the lake. This is about providing water for hydrofracking for natural gas. All things being equal it may be preferable to use surface water rather than more limited groundwater for gas development. But the lack of comprehensive state policy on how to deal with water resources leaves openings for disposition of publicly owned water in ways that may not benefit residents of the State. The bill was amended in 1st committee and is scheduled for consideration on House floor on Monday June 13.

HB 563 Cortez – Would have removed the right of property owners to sue oil companies for damages to their property, and placed resolution of all such disputes into the State Dept of Natural Resources Office of Conservation. This bill was deferred (killed) in House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

Bills we are supporting:

HB 70 Smith – Allows local authorities to purchase or lease hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles for previously exempted uses such as law enforcement and emergency vehicles. Bill has passed the house and awaits action by Senate Transportation Committee.

HB 212 Morris – Authorizes issuance of bonds for remediation of oilfield sites. Referred to House Ways and Means. Has not been heard by its first committee.

HB 219 Jones – Requires a minimum of 5% of the Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund be set aside to be used by the Department of Natural Resources for the purchase of land, or rights, or servitudes, specifically including conservation servitudes from willing sellers to improve water quality, access, or other projects consistent with the Atchafalaya Basin Master Plan. Passed House, referred to Senate Finance Committee. The bill’s co-sponsor Sen. Fred Mills says Senate Finance will be the toughest hearing for this bill. We are asking for phone calls to Senators on Senate Finance Committee and will send out an alert when we see this one scheduled.

HB 371 Tucker - Authorizes issuance of Brownfields Investor Tax Credit to eligible taxpayers. Passed House, referred to Senate Rev & Fiscal Affairs.

HB 389 Connick - Provides that certain releases of medical claims relating to the BP oil spill are null and void. Heavily amended in House Civil Law, scheduled for House floor vote on 6-9-2011 but pulled from consideration at last minute. LEAN is trying to get language placed back in the bill that requires BP to advise spill workers of a right to medical monitoring. We are strongly supporting this language and will be working the House in the minutes before it comes up for a vote. Thanks for the phone calls to your legislators on this one supporting Connick’s amendments requiring notification of the right to medical monitoring. Keep the calls coming until the bill gets voted on in the House.

HB 412 Lambert – Creates Louisiana Beverage Container Law. Killed in House Commerce Committee. This bill gets introduced every year and gets killed every time.

HB 436 Henderson – Levies a tax on transportation of natural gas through pipelines in La. The bill was killed in House Ways and Means. Foster Campbell, Public Utilities Commissioner has tried for years to get legislation like this passed. It gets killed every time by Oil & Gas industry.

HB 496 Barrow – Provides for campaign contribution disclosures by appointees to certain boards and commissions. Referred to House & Govt Affairs, still has not been heard by its first committee. We support any such measure that promotes transparency and accountability in government. But chances for this bill are not good.

HB 513 Williams – Bicycle and pedestrian traffic on roadways. Passed House, referred to Sen Transportation Committee. Requires lights on bicycles at night and certain standards for walkways.

HB 595 Labruzzo - retains current tax credits for installation of residential solar and wind systems but adds that the state tax credit shall be in addition to any federal grant earned for the same system. Passed House, referred to Senate Rev and Fiscal Affairs.

HB 615 Simon – Adds geothermal energy systems to systems eligible for wind or solar energy systems tax credit. Referred to House Ways and Means, still has not been heard by its first committee.

HB 622 and 623 Jackson - Tax authority for ozone non-attainment areas. Pulled from committee by sponsor. Word is that other measures for funding of mass transit are being pursued.

HCR 48 (House Concurrent Resolution) Gisclair – Urges and requests the Dept. of Health and Hospitals to investigate any health conditions suffered by responders to the Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and provide direction for the long-term health care of these individuals. Passed House, referred to Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Pulled from consideration by the committee. May be referred back to the committee calendar.

SB 40 Morrell - Authorizes DEQ to grant transferable credits for the investigation or remediation of hazardous waste "brownfields" sites. Passed Senate, referred to House Ways and Means Committee.

SB 70 Peterson – Repeals the La. Science Education Act which allows LA school science classes to treat creationism and intelligent design as credible alternative theories to evolution. Killed in Senate Education Committee. La Family Forum was a big opponent of this bill. The bill will not be reconsidered this session.

SB 97 Crowe – Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act (Requirement that dispersants be non-toxic). Passed Senate Environmental Quality. The bill’s sponsor is resisting attempts by DEQ and oil industry to amend the bill before consideration on Senate floor. The bill was pulled at the last minute from consideration by the full Senate. We are strongly supporting this bill and will work to get it put back on the calendar. We still need calls to Senators in anticipation of a Senate floor vote.

SB 133 Marionneaux – Applies La smokefree air act to bars and restaurants. Bill failed on Senate Floor. Big tobacco and casinos were against this one.

SB 184 Crowe – Seeks to eliminate filing deadlines until 2021 for lawsuits related to the BP oil spill. Referred to Senate Jud A, still has not been heard by its first committee.

SB 245 Willard-Lewis – State income tax credit for sales tax paid by homeowners when purchasing green materials. Referred to Senate Rev & Fiscal. Still not heard by first Committee.

SB 254 Willard-Lewis – Exempts sale of construction materials to the Make It Right Foundation from state and local sales tax. Passed Senate, referred to House Ways & Means Committee.

SB 255 Willard-Lewis – Grants a refundable residential energy efficiency tax credit for the qualified elderly. Passed Senate, referred to House Ways & Means Committee.

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