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Not Fun, Just Dysfunctional

Mark Carroll

While a regular legislative session is limited to 60 days, with the two special sessions added in, Louisiana’s legislature is starting its 78th day of nearly continuous lawmaking, and patience is wearing thin. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says this is not fun, but it is dysfunctional.

“I don’t know that there’s a lot of fun being had by a lot of people around here now,” Dardenne said. “I mean, this is serious business and it has been a dysfunctional session, unfortunately, and a lot of games being played and a lot of pressure being brought to bear from different directions on legislators.”

Much of the pressure is coming from business and industry.

“We’re trying to manage an economy that’s struggling right now,” LABI president Stephen Waguespack told the House committee considering revenue-raising measures last week. “And so I would strongly urge you not to look at the inventory tax credit as a way to generate revenue.”

“This is not the time to continue cutting businesses,” urged Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas president Chris John.

Pressure is also coming from the GOP.

“My name is Ross Little, Jr. I serve on the Republican National Committee. I urge you all to vote no on all these bills,” Little told House Ways and Means committee members.

Marksville Rep. Robert Johnson – a Democrat -- unleashed his frustration.

“You’re asking people to vote no on all these bills. How do you suggest we pay for these things if we don’t generate any revenue?” Johnson asked Little.

“I was here mostly just to speak against…”

But before Little could finish his response, Johnson interrupted.

“You know what you were here to speak, sir? You were here to speak about an ideology!” Johnson said, his volume increasing steadily. “And that’s fine. But when we in this body vote an ideology, and we cut public education, when we cut our hospitals, and when we cut road funding and we make other cuts? The people of this state who pay taxpayer dollars, they feel it.”

The administration understands Johnson’s indignation. The governor’s Chief of Staff Ben Nevers was brutally frank about their expectations if lawmakers continue to reject revenue-raising measures.

“Cuts are coming and they’re coming fast, so the next week here in Baton Rouge will decide whether some people live or die,” Nevers told Capitol Access.

9 days left.