Anti-Corruption

Anti-Corruption

Fri Jun 2, 2017

When petrochemical companies operating in rural Louisiana attempted to directly negotiate an industrial tax discount with the local parish (county), the effort ran up against the Louisiana Constitution. The local tax assessor sued and the state courts ruled that the agreement violated the Constitution. Developers then crafted House Bill 444, a constitutional amendment that would legalize direct negotiations with local governments. The amendment would allow corporations to work around Industrial Tax Exemption Program reforms recently won by Together Louisiana.

Proclaiming the bill “taxation by backroom deal,” leaders descended upon a Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee hearing to fight it.  After leaders heard several rounds of testimonials about how HB444 would provide yet another “tool” in the “toolbox” of local economic development, a new metaphor emerged.

“I’m so tired of hearing about the toolbox for economic development.” proclaimed veteran Together Louisiana leader Edgar Cage. “This tool in the toolbox…. It’s a screwdriver. And guess who’s getting screwed?”

Against all odds, and with commendation from sitting committee members, Together Louisiana leaders prevailed, influencing enough votes from both political parties to kill the bill.

[In photo, Together Louisiana leader Edgar Cage describes the tool reserved for regular citizens.]

Together Louisiana, State’s Assessors Team Up to Defeat Major Corporate Tax-Giveaway SchemeWeekly Citizen

Together  Louisiana Kills HB444 — Taxation by Backroom DealTogether Louisiana [video]

Major Tax Break for Business Dies in Senate CommitteeThe Advocate [pdf]


Wed Feb 22, 2017

Eight months after their victory in reforming the state Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), leaders of Together Louisiana noticed that industrial tax exemptions spiked 441% in its last year (2016), with the majority of tax exemptions granted after the reforms passed.  They additionally noticed that the Commerce and Industry Board reversed the wording of the measure to undermine the reform that would have limited exemptions to proposals that had secured the approval of the local municipalities sacrificing the revenue.

Unsatisfied with the explanation that the 2016 reforms were not to touch applications already in the works, 100 faith and community leaders of Together Louisiana organized a press conference before the Board of Commerce and Industry’s meeting and then sat in on the meeting itself — demonstrating a rare presence of citizen oversight of a committee that distributed $4.9 billion in tax exemptions last year.

Under the watchful gaze of Together LA, the committee unanimously rejected six applications that directly violated the Governor’s order and added a “Sunshine Provision” to the ITEP program rules to allow local citizens to learn when exemptions are being considered by local bodies. Thanks to Together LA, Louisiana Economic Development must now post on its website, within three days, when proposed tax expenditures are forwarded to local municipalities for consideration, thus beginning a 120 day period for the provision of public input.

[In photo: Ann Dunn addresses the press on behalf of Together Louisiana.]

Despite Gov. Bel Edwards’ Efforts to Rein It In, Tax Break Even More Lucrative for Manufacturers in 2016The Advocate [pdf]

Together LA: Corporate Giveaways Continue ApaceThe INDsider

Together Louisiana Protests Industrial Tax Exemption ProgramGreater Baton Rouge Business Report

The Ship is Not Turning: Status Update on Gov. Edwards’ Effort to Reform the Industrial Tax Exemption ProgramTogether Louisiana


In the News


Together Louisiana, Tax Reform, corporate tax exemption

Together Louisiana, State Assessors Team Up to Defeat Tax Giveaway

Sunday, June 4, 2017
Weekly Citizen

At a Senate committee hearing last week, Together Louisiana and the state’s assessors teamed up to deal an unlikely defeat to a proposed constitutional amendment backed by one of the most well-funded lobbying drives of the current legislative session.

House Bill 444 would have opened the door to a major new category of corporate tax exemption and had the backing, not only of the major players in the corporate subsidy lobby, but also of most of the state’s associations representing local officials and even of the Governor, who was working actively to support the bill....


Rev. Brawley, Rabbi Mosbacher, Rev. O'Connor, Bishop Miles, Trump

Oped: Trump, Sessions and Nehemiah -- A Fateful Choice for the Next AG

Wednesday, November 23, 2016
New York Daily News

A s faith leaders, we have long studied the biblical story of the person who returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the walls of his beloved city. Nehemiah was both a visionary and a realist. He knew he needed a trowel to reconstruct the walls of the city. But he also kept a sword at hand to defend himself and his fellow workers from attempts by opponents to undermine their work.

We will keep Nehemiah very much in mind as we begin to test the tendencies of the new administration. Does it want to be rid of the reproach of bulging and costly prisons and jails? Does it want to end the warehousing of young people charged with minor offenses and those with mental illness? Or does it want to maintain these profoundly anti-American policies and ambush those who seek to reverse them?

We hope and pray that the President-elect’s choice for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, will pick up a trowel and join us in a constructive campaign to rebuild a more equitable and efficient criminal justice culture in our land....


Texas IAF, Community Organizing in Texas, organizing in San Antonio, #NoGagOrdinance, Lobbying, Jorge Montiel

COPS / Metro Leaders Protest City Gag Rule Against NonProfits

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
San Antonio Express News

COPS / Metro Alliance leaders demonstrated the implications of a new City rule by gagging one of their own leaders on the steps of City Hall.  Rosa Araujo-Iracheta of St. Philip of Jesus Catholic Church detailed what the new rules would entail, exclaiming “For some agencies, this blackout period has been in effect since March…That’s over five months of being shut out!”


Housing, Anti-Corruption

Promises to keep: Daily News-Metro IAF housing forum puts mayoral candidates on the record

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
New York Daily News

Exactly what would any of the candidates who are running for mayor do upon election in November? No doubt, you have little or no idea. That’s why the Daily News and Metro IAF, a citizens organization, are sponsoring issue-oriented mayoral forums. We held the first Thursday night in front of an audience of roughly 1,000 New Yorkers at St. Paul Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn.