Louisiana Update – April 6, 2018
Session moves along
Week four of the regular session came to a close late this afternoon after the House adjourned for the weekend. The final bill-filing deadline occurred earlier this week—6pm Tuesday, April 4 to be specific. Each member was allowed to file up to five additional bills apiece after session began. Following the deadline for introduction the final tally of bills for this session includes 889 House Bills and 557 Senate Bills. That’s a far—and welcome—figure from years gone by when the numbers frequently approached 3,000 total bills filed.
Next year’s budget (reflected in HB 1 by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie) is still the main issue of the session. House Appropriations Committee is expected to send the bill to the House floor with nearly $500 million in cuts. Speaker of the House Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, has mentioned a few times he is not certain whether he can get 53 votes in the House to pass HB 1 but we should know that more clearly in the coming weeks after the bill is reported from committee. Some in Senate leadership—mostly siding with Gov. John Bel Edwards—have been vocal about lacking interest in supporting that high a number cuts. The question remains: will they pass a balanced budget during the regular session or punt the issue to yet another special session? But don’t read too far into this…it’s very, very likely that we’ll be in another special session dealing with the anticipated several-hundred-million-dollar shortfall for next fiscal year. The special session is necessary to address tax matters, which are prohibited from introduction during the current regular session.
According to various media reports this week (and from a speech by Gov. Edwards today) it appears the state has a roughly $122.6 million surplus from last fiscal year. Gov. Edwards says he wants the state to spend its one-time $122.6 million surplus on construction projects on college campuses and state buildings, small improvement projects in local communities and transportation projects around the state. The surplus from last year can only be used on one-time expenses. In addition to the construction and infrastructure projects, Edwards has called on lawmakers to put about $30.7 million toward the state's Rainy Day fund and $12.2 million toward state employee pensions. Of the $79.7 million that will go toward the "strategic investments" in construction, Edwards has suggested more than half go to 23 transportation and infrastructure projects across the state. About 13 percent – or $10.4 million – would go to deferred maintenance on college campuses and state buildings. Ultimately, the state Legislature will have the authority to decide how the money is spent.
House seat opening soon
As mentioned last week, state Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, won the race to become Mayor of Sulphur and is vacating his legislative seat. The two names vying to replace Rep. Danahay are City Councilman Stuart Moss, R-Sulphur, and Calcasieu Parish Police Juror Les Farnam, D-Sulphur.