The Louisiana House of Representatives on Monday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would reinstate three sales tax holidays that were suspended to save the state money.
House Bill 60 would cost the state about $4.9 million a year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office estimate.
Supporters said that, with the state now holding a surplus, it was appropriate to restore a small tax break for Louisiana shoppers.
"I feel like we’re in a good position to provide a little bit of tax relief," said Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, the bill’s author.
Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, was one of only two representatives to vote against the bill. She said each sales tax holiday costs the state one point on the Tax Foundation’s evaluation of state tax systems. She added that two of the three offer a tax break on state taxes but not local, adding further complexity to the state’s already convoluted sales tax system.
The House also approved House Bill 51, which would allow judges and juries to discuss whether the person who is suing over an auto accident was wearing a seat belt. Supporters hope the bill will cause more people to buckle up and perhaps lead to lower automobile insurance rates. A committee amendment was removed from the bill that would have required any awards to a plaintiff found not to have been buckled up be reduced by 25 percent.
Representatives unanimously approved House Bill 197, which prohibits nondisclosure agreements in a settlement agreement arising from a claim of sexual harassment or sexual assault when public funds are paid to settle the claim.
The House-approved bills still need to go through the legislative process in the Senate.
In other action at the legislature today:
• The House Ways and Means Committee advanced House Bill 265, which would require state and local tax collectors to issue a refund when taxes are overpaid a result of an unconstitutional law, invalid or unenforceable regulation, or because of a collector’s misinterpretation of the law. Supporters said changing the law was simply the right thing to do, since the taxpayer is not at fault for these types of overpayments.
Department of Revenue Secretary Kim Robinson said there already is a process in place that protects lawmakers from having to deal with a sudden, unexpected expense. Taxpayers can pay under protest, or they can sue the state at the Board of Tax Appeals, though in the latter case the legislature has to appropriate money to pay back the taxpayers.
The bill is forward-looking only and does not apply to any past tax controversies.
• The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee voted down Senate Bill 21, which would have taken the temporary sales tax approved last year to cement the budget deal and gradually dedicated it over time to the Construction Subfund of the Transportation Trust Fund rather than the state general fund.
Bill author Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, described it as a way to improve transportation infrastructure while weaning the state general fund off the tax and avoiding another fiscal cliff when the tax expires in 2025. But opponents, including Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, worried the early loss of the money from the general fund would risk the state’s newfound fiscal stability.
The committee also advanced without objection Senate Bill 4, which is a potential constitutional amendment to exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from state sales tax. That measure would need approval from two-thirds of legislators and a majority of voters.