This came from the Senate floor yesterday on a bill by Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), SB 499, which would have prevented local governments from going to the state Bond Commission to get financing if they had certain outstanding debts.
Specifically, SB 499 covered “unpaid final, nonappealable judgment[s] issued by a court of competent jurisdiction for amounts owed for services performed under contract.” In other words, if a city or parish let a contract for, let’s say, a school, and then decided to screw the general contractor for part of the payment (or even the whole thing). Under current law, believe it or not, said city or parish could fight the contractor all the way through the courts and then say “we’re still not paying you” after the contractor got an unappealable judgement. And the contractor’s recourse is nil. Can’t attach property, can’t garnish sales tax, nothing.
So Riser put a bill out to remedy the situation, and his remedy is to say that deadbeat local governments who don’t satisfy their financial obligations can’t borrow any more money through the Bond Commission until they get straight. SB 499 sailed through committee without objection, and went to the floor yesterday.
And then we saw this…
For those of you who don’t have time to go through the whole 10 minute video, or need some explanation of it, first you have Riser making an impassioned plea for a remedy for local governments who think it’s OK to enter into contracts and then stiff their counterparties. Then you have Fred Mills (R-St. Martinville), who comes in with an amendment to essentially exempt more than half the state’s local governments from the bill. It gets so ridiculous that Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) sarcastically suggests to Mills that he throw in a few counties in Mississippi in the amendment.
And there is laughter throughout at the spectacle and the mockery made of the bill, as though local governments who operate like Greece is somehow funny.
The bill gets pulled out of its batting order, but shortly returns to the floor for a relatively long debate in which Mills, carrying water for the Louisiana Municipal Association and the police jurors, says it’s a lousy bill because people who can’t pay their debts can go into bankruptcy but local governments can’t do it – and then comes a procession of “opt-outs” which wipe out virtually all the rest of the state’s parishes after Riser says in his home parish of Caldwell they’re happy to be included in the bill because in Caldwell they proudly pay their debts…
The final bill included Caldwell Parish, and only Caldwell Parish, and it was passed by a 27-12 margin. You can bet your bottom dollar that the legislative maneuvering which exempted every parish in the state but Caldwell will come back to bite those folks in the rear end as this bill moves. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the House.