Bill to increase fees for restaurants and food-serving establishments clears Senate

Restaurants and other establishments that sell food would pay increased permitting fines to the state to cover improved food inspection services from the Office of Public Health, under a bill that neared final passage with the backing Monday afternoon of the state Senate Finance Committee.

J.T. Lane, assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health, said Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 2013-14 budget proposal assumed the passage of the legislation and anticipates the $1.7 million. The money would pay for current employees of the retail food inspection program, along with technology upgrades to better-coordinate inspections, supplies and travel costs.

“With the financial situation that we’re in, this is something that we’re counting on,” Lane told the Finance Committee.

House Bill 337 by state Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans, already has received House approval. It heads next to the full Senate for consideration.

The price tag for a permit varies by type of retail food establishment. Permit costs would be boosted by about 50 percent, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office analysis. Temporary or special event permits, like for fairs and festivals, would be exempt from the fee hike.