Legislators prepare for session

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 25, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – The 2005 Legislative Session begins on Monday and local legislators have several issues they want to address ranging from crime and punishment to military and insurance.

State Representative Joel Chaisson is proposing an Anti-Skimming Act, which prohibits the use of a scanning device and/or a re-encoder to capture encoded information form the magnetic strip from credit, debit or other payment cards with the intent to defraud the authorized user or a merchant and then place the information on a different card.

The penalty for this using the scanning device will be no more than five years imprisonment, a fine of $5,000 or both. The penalty for the use of both the scanning device and the re-encoder will be doubled, according to information provided by the State Legislative website.

Chaisson is also proposing a law changing the penalty for persons with third and fourth DWI offenses giving the court discretion to suspend all or any part of the remainder sentence and to place the offender on supervised probation. Also, it will not require persons to participate in any court approved substance abuse program or drug court treatment programs and authorizes, but does not require participation in a home incarceration program, according to the State Legislative website.

Another by Chaisson would authorize the conducting of gaming on domestic cruise ships that provide overnight rooms for more than 400 passengers and have been on the cruise for at least 48 hours while between a port in any parish with a population of 475,000 or more on state rivers and waterways. The Domestic Cruiseship Gaming Control Assistance District will be a special taxing district, authorizing them to impose a franchise fee of 18 1/2 percent on net gaming proceeds, to collect fees to conduct suitability checks and to authorize the district board to distribute the revenues, according to the State Legislative website.

Representative Chaisson was unavailable for comment.

House Representative Robert “Bobby” Faucheux is offering legislation to authorize the Sheriff to retain a private attorney for tax and fee collection with approval of 51 percent of tax recipients and to bill the tax recipients the fees and expenses of the attorney on a “pro rata basis.”

“This gives the Sheriff authority to hire and get the money back from the agencies,” said Faucheux. “The Sheriff will not have to pay for all of the cost.”

Faucheux is also proposing a law for the Department of Insurance requiring group health plans to have a special enrollment period for dependents previously enrolled in a Medicaid program or the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program (LaCHIP).

“This will allow continuous insurance coverage,” said Faucheux. “There will be no lack of coverage at any time, allowing portability from one employment to the next.”

Another bill proposed by Faucheux is a constitutional amendment to freeze the tax assessment of the homestead of a person who is designated as disabled by the United States Social Security Administration.

“This is for all disabled people,” said Faucheux. “Right now, on the books, assessments are only frozen if they are 65 years old, disabled and have an income of $50,000 or less.”

House Representative Gary Smith is offering a bill to authorized the suspension or termination of cell phone contracts upon call to active military services if location makes phones inoperable. The person called to service will not face any termination or cancellation fee, given that the person gives a written or verbal notice and with consent of the plan carrier. Also, the person must notify the carrier 30 within 30 days from the date they are discharged from active military duty if their plan was suspended, according to the State Legislative website.

Smith also proposed a law provided a tax incentive for graduate and professional students who come to Louisiana for schooling if they stay in Louisiana after graduation. This will provide an income tax credit for a portion of their graduate student loan debt. Only one credit is allowed and is equal to the lesser of the tax due or $500, according to the State Legislative website.

Another proposed by Smith requires traffic citations issued by law enforcement officers which are not completely filled out at the time issued or written in an illegible handwriting to be declared invalid, unenforceable and subject to dismissal by the prosecuting attorney. This will be added to the present law enforcing officers to issue the original or copy of the citation with the court having jurisdiction over the alleged offense, according to the State Legislative website.

Representative Smith was unavailable for comment.

For further information on the 2005 State Legislative session, visit www.legis.state.la.us.