2012 LA Congressional Run

I am announcing my candidacy as a Libertarian for US Congress in the 2nd District of Louisiana. As a result, my postings may not be as frequent on this site over the next few months. I will certainly still be keeping an eye on things though. You can view my campaign page at www.calebtrotter.com. Next week I will issue an official Press Release. Thanks for reading and your continued support.

-Caleb Trotter

Tax Breaks For All

Since 2008, 62 “cultural districts” have been created in Louisiana. Of those 62, 20 are in Orleans Parish. Currently, a 63rd is being proposed for the Uptown-university area of New Orleans.

According to the Louisiana Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Department, “The primary goal of this initiative is to spark community revitalization based on cultural activity though tax incentives.” To accomplish this goal, they allow artists selling their original artwork within the districts to waive sales taxes. Also, owners of “historical” properties (i.e. 50 years old or more) can receive tax credits for renovation work.

I requested and received the annual reports for all 20 of the New Orleans districts. The data can be found here. For some reason, the Lincoln Beach district did not file a report for 2011 though. If you wish to see other years, simply change the year in the domain name.

If the goal of the New Orleans City Council is to make all of New Orleans one giant cultural district, they are well on their way.

 

The red blocks are the existing districts, with the blue being the newly proposed district.

I began this post with an aim different from where I wound up. Originally, I intended to dig through the annual reports to see if these districts were truly gaining anything from these special tax breaks. Also, I wanted to try and quantify the cost associated to taxpayers for these breaks. During my research though, I discovered that last Monday, July 23, 2012 was the first day of an investigative panel seeking to quantify all the tax breaks given in the entire state of Louisiana. I’ve sent an email to the head of the review committee to specifically request they not overlook the cultural districts. The results of this review are due by February 1, 2013, so I will eagerly await their report and save my time for other projects.

However, as I thought more about the issue, I realized my position had somewhat drifted. Yes, we need “to flush out low-performing and obsolete tax incentives by exploring their economic impact and value to those affected by them,” as House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, a member of the Revenue Study Commission, put it. But, we also need to use the data to better simplify the tax code so all Louisianans benefit.

After all, a tax break or incentive simply allows people or businesses who earn income to keep more of their income. That is not a bad thing. Where it can get out of hand though, is when some parties are benefiting more than others simply due to their lobbying might. I’m excited to see the commission’s results and what kind of drastic, beneficial changes can result for all Louisiana taxpayers over the next year.

 

You Can Film NOPD

Even though the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights establishes the right of individuals to film or photograph police officers in the line of duty, oftentimes they feel otherwise. Well, for all of you out there who decide to exercise your Constitutional rights in this regard can rejoice. The federal Consent Decree filed this week on July 24, 2012, explicitly lays out the proper conduct for NOPD in dealing with being filmed, photographed or commented about.

“Officers shall respect the right of civilians to observe, record, and/or verbally comment on or complain about the performance of police duties occurring in public, and NOPD shall ensure that officers understand that exercising this right serves important public purposes.”

So, pretty awesome stuff. I definitely recommend reading through the entire decree. Personally, I intend on making a laminated card with the above portion and always carrying it on me.

Reminding NOPD About Louisiana Seatbelt Laws

For the record, I am not an attorney…yet. However, I can read. In light of the fact that I had two friends pulled over for a “seat belt check” Friday night in the Fontainebleau/Broadway area of New Orleans, I felt it was necessary to remind NOPD of Louisiana seat belt laws.

According to Louisiana Revised Statute 32:295.1

“A.(1)  Each driver of a passenger car, van, or truck having a gross weight of ten thousand pounds or less, commonly referred to as a pickup truck, in this state shall have a safety belt properly fastened about his or her body at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion.  The provisions of this Section shall not apply to those cars, vans, or pickups manufactured prior to January 1, 1981.” And, “(2)  A person operating or riding in an autocycle shall wear seatbelts while in forward motion.”

So, we know the law says everyone (earlier this year the legislature clarified the statute to include SUVs) must be wearing seatbelts. Whether that should be a law is a matter for another day. Anyway, so what can a police offer use as probable cause to pull someone over for not wearing a seatbelt? Section F of the statute says:

“Probable cause for violation of this Section shall be based solely upon a law enforcement officer’s clear and unobstructed view of a person not restrained as required by this Section.”

That means you cannot be stopped by police to check if you’re wearing your seatbelt. It’s pretty damn clear in the statute. My question for this NOPD District 2 female officer is, how could she clearly see, in a moving car, after dark, the driver or passenger not wearing their seatbelt? It is highly unlikely. What I suspect is that NOPD is using these illegal seatbelt stops as a way to check for other potential illegal activity, such as DWI.

I can already hear the critics. “So, what?!” “What’s the big deal? You should be wearing your seatbelt anyway!” The point is that we have at least three problems with this scenario. The first, most egregious, is NOPD’s clear inability to follow a simple law. Second, they are using false probable cause (i.e. illegal) to basically say “I’m looking out for your own safety whether you like it or not,” which is not the proper role of the government. Third, the US Constitution, by way of the 4th Amendment of the Bill of Rights, protects people from unreasonable searches without probable cause.

Last, but not least, on the off-chance that this could be classified as a seatbelt checkpoint, we still have a problem. RS 32:295.4 requires that ” Provision for advance warning to the approaching motorists with signs, flares, and other indications to warn motorists of an impending stop and to provide indication of its official nature as a police checkpoint.” That clearly was not happening in this case, so cannot be used as a defense for the stop.

So, NOPD, I would like an explanation as to why this unconstitutional, illegal, and harassing stop took place this past Friday night. I sincerely hope this is not common practice.

 

 

Happy Development In Louisiana Booze Laws

In case you missed it last week, there is good news for fans of Louisiana distilled spirits. According to the Times-Picayune:

“Louisiana distillers of spirits now can offer tours of their facilities and sell their products in-house, changes that will help members of that industry expand sales and attract tourists. Senate Bill 64 was passed by the state Legislature at the end of May, giving distilleries the freedom to give tours and sell 12 bottles of a product to an individual.”

A small but welcome step toward alcohol freedom in Louisiana. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dan Morrish, R-Jennings, who gave his rationale for the bill as “Americans drink a lot of rum and hopefully they will drink more Louisiana rum”. I couldn’t agree more.

Now, I’ve written before about the horrible laws affecting Louisiana craft and microbreweries. Hopefully the success of this bill will lend toward some movement next year for beer lovers as well. Reading further in the Times-Picayune article gives credence to that hope.

Andrew Godley, the founder of Parish Brewing in Broussard, said that Senate Bill 64 passed without opposition, which makes him optimistic that something similar will go through for breweries.

“The law that just passed is very encouraging,” he said. “Recently, brewing companies haven’t tried anything. (There will) likely be pushing for modernization of the laws for fairness in the state of our industry.”

Further,

Godley thinks one of the main reasons breweries haven’t pushed for the change in legislation is the lack of a large micro-brewing industry in Louisiana.

“It takes quite a bit of people to force something to move,” he added. “There’s no push for it. You can’t have legislative change without a group of people working for change.”

Well Mr Godley, consider me another member of the group working for change. Cheers!