Louisiana House Votes for 15-Cent Internet Access Charge

BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana house has voted to levy an Internet access charge of 15 cents statewide, the revenue earmarked to battle online crime.

Despite the opposition of Governor Bobby Jindal, WWL-TV reports the vote was 81-9, spearheaded by Republican Rep. Mack “Bodi” White of Denham Springs. White sponsored the bill for Attorney General Buddy Caldwell in order to raise money to finance a division that investigates online crimes, especially focusing on Internet sex crimes against children.

Financial analysts claim the measure could raise $2.4 million a year for Caldwell’s department.

The fee would be implemented in 2010, charged to Internet users on their monthly bill, as with other utility taxes. Public libraries and public schools would be exempt.

“I don’t think that 15 cents per month is too much to ask for our children’s protection,” said Democratic Rep. Simone Champagne, of Jeanerette.

White called it a usage fee; opponents called it a flat-out Internet tax. The opposition also suggested such a surcharge may violate the 1998 federal Tax Freedom Act, which prohibits states from taxing Internet services, as noted by Ars Technica..

Legal experts in the state already believe the measure will be challenged in court if it passes the state Senate.

The office of Governor Jindal stated while it wishes to fully pursue sex offenders, especially those accused of child crimes, it does not wish to raise state taxes.

However, even vehement, anti-tax politicians are making an exception, such as Republican Rep. John Schroder, Covington, who said, "I can't think of a better fee, tax that we can impose -- I don't know a better use for 15 cents."

The bottom line may come down to: Is 15 cents really all that much to pay per month to help fight Internet crime, when it won't even buy a cup of coffee or a pack of gum these days?

The measure, House Bill 569, can be viewed here.