The House and Senate gavel back into session today to restart the lingering tax debate.
Pearson Cross, Associate Professor of Political Science at UL Lafayette, says the Legislature is ready to move past the collapse of the first two special sessions. "I really think the pressure has ratcheted up on both sides and I'm fairly optimistic we'll see a deal," he says.
But what will that deal look like?
Lawmakers got close to an agreement in the last special session. The bill that would keep half of the one penny in state sales tax in place was just seven votes shy of passing. Legislators are expected to consider that option again this session — which would fully fund the budget and avoid major cuts to state services.
"These legislators are getting besieged by people who are trying to influence them to support TOPS, to support higher education, money for some of the services that would be cut," Cross says.
What makes this special session different from others this year is that lawmakers have a budget to work off of — they know exactly where the holes in funding are. The last special session got off to a rough start after Gov. Edwards vetoed the Legislature's first attempt at a spending plan, creating even more tension between he and the House.
"With his signature on the bill this time, we become laser-focused on raising the money to plug the holes," says Cross. "I really think it's gonna be much more effective session."
Regardless of this session's outcome, Cross says the three special sessions this year alone and seven total under Edwards have produced a lot of friction.
"These innumerable, it seems, special sessions have pointed out the real difficulty of managing the fractious House," says Cross. "It has also shown that the way forward until the election of at least 2019 for the people of Louisiana is going to be very bumpy."