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Epic Fail: State Construction Bill

Sue Lincoln

The regular session has ended, and the second special session has begun. And the chairman of House Ways and Means, Neil Abramson, is nobody’s favorite right now. He did not get the capital outlay bill – HB 2 – passed.

Senate President John Alario kept waiting for it.

“I’ll try to get you an update on Two,” Alario told Senate members in the early afternoon. “We’re sending smoke signals and all kind of things and emails and pigeons and everything else to try to figure out what’s going on.”

A couple of hours later, House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger publicly urged Abramson to bring it for a vote.

“We’ve had this bill for 5 days,” Leger state on the House floor.  “And we’ve been standing around for the last several hours.”

But concurrence with the Senate amendments to HB 2 was never called. 

And when a new HB 2 was introduced in the special session, Rep. Patrick Connick grilled Abramson about what went on with the regular session version.

“My question is, have you been in contact with Senator Morrell about HB 2?” Connick asked, referring to Abramson’s counterpart on the Senate side.

“They never had any conversations with me.,” Abramson said. “Our staff communicated with their staff about the legal and technical things. I kept meeting with our staff.”

Abramson tried to justify not calling the bill by saying, “The bill could not be fixed in the regular session.”

Rep. Sam Jones disputed that.

“If you don’t meet with the principals on the other side, of course it can’t be fixed,” Jones stated,

“No, it couldn’t be fixed from a technical and legal standpoint,” Abramson insisted.

Credit Sue Lincoln
Gov. John Bel Edwards' end-of-session press conference

Governor John Bel Edwards expressed his concerns at a press conference between the end of the regular session and the start of the second special session. He notes that the failure to pass HB2 adds a big burden to the House Ways and Means workload, which already includes the bulk of the special session bills.

“Just having to take up House Bill 2 again, while they need to be quickly considering and moving revenue bills is a real problem.,” Edwards said.

The governor also called it “a failure in leadership.”