(The Center Square) – Louisiana lawmakers on Friday afternoon were poised to call for a special session, giving them another 30 days to finish the work they started during the pandemic-shortened regular session.
Legislative leaders were circulating a petition to hold the special session that was expected to garner support from a majority of both the House of Representatives and Senate. Lawmakers have been predicting for weeks that they were unlikely to have time to pass spending bills before the regular session ended June 1.
The special session would begin at 6:01 p.m. June 1, precisely one minute after the regular-session deadline.
Rep. Stuart Bishop, the Republican who chairs the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee, said lawmakers still are asking to add projects to the state construction budget.
“We are doing an injustice to the people of Louisiana if we just ram it through in one week,” he said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said he had no problem with legislators calling the special session, saying it would cause a “major disruption” if spending bills were not approved by the time the fiscal year begins July 1 as the constitution requires. But he said it was “problematic” that the call includes 41 items.
The petition includes all of the “must pass” spending bills but also adds measures dealing with tax exemptions, internet access, and changes to how the state’s legal system deals with automobile accidents. It includes setting tax rates for fantasy sports contests, which lawmakers failed to establish during last year’s fiscal session and could not consider during this year’s non-fiscal session.
Rep. Melinda White, a Bogalusa Democrat, said the special session would cost taxpayers $1.8 million. She said lawmakers have had enough time to pass state budgets and objected to the petition being circulated and some members “don’t know a thing about it until it’s a done deal.”
“There’s a lot of important work left to do to help families and small businesses who are struggling to recover from the COVID shutdown,” said Sen. Sharon Hewitt, who chairs her body’s Republican caucus. “This special session is historic in its scope and importance to the state.”