Court rules on gulf gas, antitrust

The State of Louisiana may not levy a tax on the millions of cubic feet of natural gas that it pipes from the Gulf of Mexico, refines, and exports to more than 30 states.

Monitor correspondent Julia Malone reports that on an 8-to-1 vote, the US Supreme Court ruled that the so-called "first use" gas tax levied by Louisiana violates the Constitution's guarantee of free interstate commerce. The ruling will save $150 million to $275 million a year in expenses that would have been passed to consumers.

In other action the high court:

* Ruled that church-related schools in South Dakota are not required to contribute unemployment compensation taxes under federal statutes.

* Strengthened antitrust laws by forbidding a New Orleans concrete company, found guilty of price-fixing, from forcing co-conspirators to help pay the penalty.

* Upheld actions of the Actors Equity Association, a union that is the chief bargainer for theatrical performers in the US, in the face of a challenge by several agents. The agents charged the union with monopolizing the field by forbidding members to deal only with agents approved by the union. The court upheld the requirement as a legitimate labor-organizing tool but threw out a franchise fee that the union charged agents.

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