Gov. Bobby Jindal is showing no fear of the veto pen, and the bills jettisoned so far this year offer some insight into his decision-making.
The governor doesn’t like the meddling eyes of lawmakers who want to mandate reporting about his initiatives, he’s influenced by the conservative watchdogs of the Legislature and proposals by Jindal critics seem especially vulnerable to axing.
Among the measures scrapped is a bill that would have required annual reporting on a series of sweeping changes made to the state’s Medicaid program, mental health services and addictive disorder treatment and a bill that sought details on the myriad of multimillion-dollar tax breaks doled out by state agencies.
Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, wanted the House and Senate health care committees to get yearly reports on health initiatives that are being run by private companies.
His bill required details on the patients receiving care, the number and types of denied claims, health outcomes and savings estimates from programs the Jindal administration pitched as ways to cut costs while preserving quality care, programs that involve billions of state and federal tax dollars.
The idea was unanimously backed by lawmakers.
As he rejected it, Jindal called the measure “duplicative and unnecessary reporting,” saying the state health department already provides extensive information to lawmakers about its programs.
Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, wanted each state agency to report annually about the tax breaks it oversees, in a bid to determine whether the money given away was generating the job returns and business investments sought and promised.
Lawmakers again unanimously supported the reporting idea.
Jindal, whose administration has pushed a series of business tax breaks since the governor’s been in office, declared that bill had “duplicative and burdensome reporting requirements” in his veto.
In previous years, the Republican governor has struck down similar types of review requirements by lawmakers who were attempting to exercise authority over the spending they are supposed to oversee – particularly in health care, where Jindal has pushed a restructuring that has turned over many state programs and facilities to private companies to operate.
The conservative Louisiana Family Forum apparently has more sway with the governor.
Jindal vetoed a package of bills that would have tweaked the state’s video poker laws, within days of a Family Forum request to scrap the changes.
The bills would have allowed for circumstances where a video poker operator could keep its license even with multiple violations for letting underage gamblers play the machines; would have loosened fuel sale requirements for truck stops to keep their video poker machines; and would have allowed a truck stop to offer video poker on more days when the facility’s restaurant is closed.
Family Forum leader Gene Mills said the bills would deregulate the gambling operations, and Jindal agreed, offering similar sentiments.
Lawmakers who were frequent Jindal critics had more mixed luck with the governor.
Several of the measures refused by the governor came from those who frequently vote against Jindal, including bills that the administration never publicly fought as they were moving through the Legislature.
Jackson’s bill to give a new tax break for donations to public schools was among those vetoed. Jackson was a regular critic of the governor’s education policies in the just-ended legislative session.
The idea came in response to a Jindal administration bill, signed into law earlier this session, to give a near dollar-for-dollar tax rebate for people and businesses that donate to nonprofits that give scholarships for children to attend private schools.
Jackson’s tax break was far smaller and, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office, wasn’t likely to take any money from state coffers until the 2013-14 budget year. But Jindal said there was no money set aside for the tax break in the 2012-13 year as his explanation for killing it.
More vetoes could be on the horizon.
Jindal has until June 26 to deal with all the bills that were sent to his desk after the three-month regular legislative session.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte covers state politics for The Associated Press.