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|Riser proposes one-time tax rebate; Anders promotes ag-tourism|
State Sen. Neil Riser wants to give state income taxpayers a one-time tax rebate.
Riser's proposal is one of more than 1,700 bills that will be considered in the Regular Session of the Legislature, which begins Monday.
Riser said the one-time rebate is similar to the rebates taxpayers will receive later this year as part of the economic stimulus package approved by Congress.
The proposed Louisiana economic stimulus package calls for a percentage of any state surplus funds to be placed in a holding account.
'That money will get into an economic stimulus fund in the 2007-08 (fiscal) year and will be paid out to tax payers in 2009," said Riser, R-Columbia.
Riser pointed out that lawmakers recently adjourned a special session in which they spent some $1 billion in surplus funds. He said legislators were prohibited from returning that money to taxpayers.
During the Regular Session, Riser said he hoped to correct that because approximately 55 percent of the surplus money came from individual income tax filers.
Riser also has taken aim at protecting a farmer's access to land bordering railroads.
In a bill proposed by Riser, state railroad operators would be required to notify state Department of Transportation and Development officials before removing any rural railroad crossings.
The proposed law is intended to help guarantee farmers continued access to farmlands bordering railroads around the state.
"It is critical in the farming areas to be able to get in and out of fields without having to take equipment up and down the roads," Riser said.
Riser said removing rural crossings hinders access to farm land and requires farmers to take long routes on public roads, which increases wear and tear on state roads as well as creates potential hazards to motorists.
"We're just trying to keep the railroad crossings open through farmland so farmers will have fight of way to and from the field," Riser said. "That's the gist of the plan."
State Rep. Andy Anders has proposed legislation to assist the growth of rural agri-tourism.
Agri-tourism is a growing trend nationwide. It includes diverse activities such as farm tours, ecological photography and bird watching.
Anders said Louisiana liability laws hamper the growth of agri-tourism in the state because individual landowners currently are liable. Many farmers and business owners refuse to allow visitors to their property, according to Anders, because of liability concerns.
Anders said the legislation he has proposed would shift liability from individual landowners to tour operators and tourism groups that host the activities.
"We are trying to get more tourism into these rural areas by whatever means we can come up with -- farm tours, cotton gin tours, bird watching," said Anders, D-Clayton.
Anders also said he was working with the House Agriculture Committee on a bill that could impact the way grain buyers and farmers conduct business.
Anders said the bill he has proposed would make oral agreements between buyers and farmers legally binding.
In the meantime, Anders said he was impressed with the work the Legislature has accomplished thus far this year. He credited Gov. Bobby Jindal with much of the progress.
"This is going to be an interesting session," Anders said. "You can tell by our ratings that the new Louisiana governor has gotten us off on the right foot."
Anders downplayed the role he expected politics to play in the session.
"Party lines aren't even coming into play anymore," Anders said.
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