Dardenne opposes increase in New Orleans hotel-motel tax

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s proposed hotel-motel tax increase has attracted opposition from Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, the state’s tourism chief.

“It would be a blow to the tourism industry in New Orleans,” Dardenne said.

If the proposed tax is implemented, New Orleans would have an effective hotel-motel tax of 18 percent, Dardenne said.

“What this does is create a hotel-motel tax rate that is on a par with New York City,” Dardenne said. The hotel-motel tax would be 50 percent higher than that in Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas, he said.

Dardenne said the tax would put New Orleans at “a tremendous competitive disadvantage when we’re bidding on major sporting events” such as the Super Bowl, NCAA finals and the new college football championship game, as well as conventions.

“I’m adamantly opposed to that proposition,” Dardenne said.

Dardenne said he realizes that New Orleans is struggling financially. But tourism would be “put in great jeopardy if the city of New Orleans becomes the highest taxed destination in America, which is what this proposal would make it,” he said.

The Landrieu administration bill is pending consideration by the Legislature. It would allow New Orleans, with a vote of the people, to increase the hotel-motel occupancy tax by up to 1.75 percent.

How the money is spent would be determined by New Orleans’ governing authority.

Steve Perry, CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, has made it known that he thinks increasing the hotel-motel tax is not a good idea.

The measure was on the agenda of a House committee last week, but no action was taken as work continued behind closed doors.

Lobbyists’ dollar limit on entertaining raised

How much lobbyists can spend wining and dining legislators and others they seek to influence is increasing again this year.

Effective in July, the dollar amount that can be spent per occasion is increasing to $58. The per-event limit had been $57.

The amount has been steadily rising since the Legislature implemented a $50 spending cap and then allowed it to increase with the consumer price index.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics certifies the amount each year, then promulgates the rules to implement the new rate. The CPI increased 1 percent.

The limit applies to food, drink and other refreshments purchased for public employees and elected officials.

Official opposes ‘speed trap’ crackdown

John Gallagher, an official of the Louisiana Municipal Association, opposed efforts last week in a House committee to crack down on the town of Washington, which critics call the “speed trap capital” of the state.

But even Gallagher said he is careful when traveling on Interstate 49 through the St. Landry Parish town, which is just north of Opelousas.

“When I get to Washington, I do get out and push just to make sure,” Gallagher said jokingly to the House Transportation Committee.

Two bills aimed at trimming the number of speeding tickets issued by town officials were approved and sent to the full House.

During the speed trap debate, state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, sponsor of the bills, said motorists from Oklahoma were “lined up for miles” near Washington when speeding tickets were being issued after LSU defeated the University of Oklahoma in the 2003 BCS national championship game.

Seabaugh said he had no problems with OU fans getting tickets but does have issues when his constituents are cited.

Group says parents satisfied with vouchers

A pair of pro-voucher groups said a survey shows that more than 91 percent of parents surveyed are satisfied or very satisfied with the program.

The results were issued by the Louisiana Federation for Children, which advocates for educational choice, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a national group that says it works for low-income residents.

Vouchers are state aid that allows students attending public schools rated C, D or F to attend private schools at state expense if they meet income rules.

About 6,500 students are using vouchers in the current school year.

Officials of the two groups said the survey results were based on more than 1,700 responses.

LFC President Ann Duplessis, a former state senator, said the results show that parents are “overwhelmingly happy” with the program, which was made statewide in 2012.

Gov. Jindal appoints 3 to state lottery board

Gov. Bobby Jindal announced three appointments to the nine-member Louisiana State Lottery Corp. board of directors:

Heather Doss, of Lafayette, chief operating officer of Flex Med Medical Staffing & Training; Belle Chasse Fire Chief Roy A. Robichaux Jr.; and Blake McCaskill, of Sulphur, regional president of the West Louisiana Region of MidSouth Bank.

Doss and Robichaux are reappointments. McCaskill is replacing Darrel McCartney.

Each will make $15,000 a year as lottery board directors.

Coastal official to speak at Press Club

Jerome Zeringue, the governor’s executive assistant for coastal activities and chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, will be the speaker for noon’s meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Zeringue will talk about coastal issues, hurricane preparedness and proposed legislation before the Louisiana Legislature.

The Press Club meets in the Iberville Room at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel, 102 France St. Parking is free in the garage off Mayflower Street. Lunch, which is served at 11:30 a.m., is $12 for members and $15 for nonmembers. The public is invited, but only members of the Press Club and the news media are allowed to ask questions.

Compiled by Capitol news bureau