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Lawmakers End Regular Session Early To Focus On Budget And Taxes

Wallis Watkins
File photo: Louisiana House of Representatives

"Members, we have reported to the Senate that the House is prepared to Sine Die," Rep. Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville) announced on the House floor Friday.  With that, the Louisiana Legislature ended the regular session two weeks ahead of schedule. They'll be back to work Tuesday for a special session on the budget and taxes. 

After the Legislature adjourned late Friday night, Gov. John Bel Edwards said they'll be starting the budget discussions with a clean slate.

"There's something just about everybody can agree upon, and that is the budget that was passed by the House and then the budget that was passed by the Senate were simply not worthy of the people of Louisiana. For that reason, I have fulfilled my obligation as well, and I vetoed House Bill 1."

Other than the budget, or House Bill 1, Robert Travis Scott, President of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, says the Legislature was able to tackle some tough issues this session. Like the constitutional amendment giving voters the chance to decide if juries in felony cases should be unanimous in order to convict someone.

"This has been the surprise bill of the session, as probably one of the most enormous accomplishments I’ve seen the legislature do in a long time," says Scott.

The gambling industry is set to see some big changes as well, after the Legislature approved allowing riverboat casinos to move on land.  The idea, explains Scott, "was to help modernize the casinos and create maybe more tax revenue as a result, to put them on a more competitive basis with what you see in other states."

But there wasn’t enough support this year for a constitutional convention. Some lawmakers were hoping for a chance to rewrite parts of the constitution, creating more flexibility in the budget.

"I think it'll continue to be an issue that's discussed," he says, "and I think it'll be very much a part of the 2019 election, both for legislators running for office and for whoever runs for Governor."