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The four gambling bills that hold the potential to impact operations at two riverboat casinos in Lake Charles is scheduled to undergo their first legislative test on Tuesday. They will be heard at 10 a.m. by the state Senate Judiciary B Committee.

However, the property tax exemptions will be the focus of the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee (at 3 p.m. on Monday). A bill prohibiting tax breaks for pornographic movie productions and a measure that authorises a tax rebate for taxpayers who donate to certain higher education scholarship and grant programmes will be discoursed by the full house on Monday.

Medicaid is the federal-state health care programme for poor and low-income Americans. A bill extending the termination date for a Medicaid fraud detection and prevention task force is scheduled for full House debate on Tuesday. A House concurrent resolution for House debate Wednesday would create a commission to excogitate the feasibility of a state constitutional convention.

Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, is the author of Senate Bills 316 and 320 that would impact the L’auberge Casino Resort and the Golden Nugget, both in Lake Charles. The state’s 13 other riverboat casinos would also be affected.

SB 316 would allow riverboats to apply to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to locate their casinos within 1,200 feet of their licensed berths. It also designates that their gaming areas cannot exceed 2,365 gambling positions.

The change to gambling positions replaces the current 30,000-square-foot requirement for gambling machines. The goal is to accommodate larger slot machines with more features.

The bill also deletes the requirement that riverboats be paddlewheel driven. In 2001, riverboats were allowed to be permanently docked, the last major change of gambling laws.

SB 320 deals with what are called “promotional pays.” Those are non-cashable vouchers, promotional chips, coupons, electronic credits, electronic promotions, scrips or any other cash equivalents provided to patrons.

Patrons are given some cash without putting up any money in order to attract more customers to visit the casino. That money is also taxed, which casinos consider double taxation.

Johns said he is working with casino operators to see if they can come up with some way to lower the tax without costing the state the $18 million collected annually from those “promotional pays.”

Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, is the author of SB 318 that deals with gaming positions, the 1,200 -foot move that would be allowed and the elimination of paddlewheels. All are identical to Johns’ measures. SB 321 by Martiny deals only with the 1,200-foot requirement.

Sen. Bodi White, R-Baton Rouge, is the author of SB 417. It deals with a proposal to move the DiamondJacks riverboat casino in Bossier City to Tangipahoa Parish. Parish voters would have to approve the move in an election that would be held on Nov. 6. If approved, the riverboat would be located along the Tangipahoa River.

Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans and chairman of the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, has two property tax exemptions measures before his committee Monday. SB 148 is a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with local property tax exemptions granted to new and expanding industries. Gov. John Bel Edwards through an executive order gave local agencies affected by those 100 percent exemptions a voice in the process. The Morrell proposal would put that process into the state constitution if approved by voters.

The exemptions would have to be endorsed by the parish sheriff, school board, municipality and parish governing authority. Current practice gives industries a five-year exemption and a nearly automatic five-year renewal.

Morrell’s proposal would limit the renewal period to three years at only 80 percent of the property’s assessed valuation. Voters would decide the issue on Nov. 6.

SB 164 by Morrell says if a residential property’s assessed value increases by greater than 35 percent in a reassessment year, the assessor shall phase-in the amount over a four-year period. The requirement wouldn’t apply to construction or improvements to the property.

Rep. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, is the sponsor of House Bill 312 that prohibits tax credits for pornographic motion pictures. He said his goal is to put the prohibition into state law to make it clear those productions are ineligible for tax breaks.

Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, is the sponsor of HB 175 that provides for a tax rebate for donations made by a taxpayer to the Louisiana Office of Financial Assistance. The donations would be used for postsecondary education scholarships for students who are eligible to receive Go Grants that are available for low-to-moderate income students.

The state’s impending $700 million fiscal cliffs is expected to make it difficult to enact tax breaks that cost the state additional revenues.

Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, is the sponsor of HB 156. It extends the termination date of the Medicaid task force on fraud and prevention initiatives another year until Aug. 1, 2019.

Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, is the author of House Concurrent Resolution 3 that creates a Constitutional Convention Study Commission to study the feasibility of holding a constitutional convention. It would be composed of 13 members.

The legislation lays out extensive guidelines to be followed. Support would come from the Legislative Fiscal Office, the Louisiana State Law Institute, the state Supreme Court and universities that appoint members to the commission.

Source: americanpress.com


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