Starting today, the Louisiana Legislature will spend two months crafting a budget and debating legislation. At the same time, plenty of focus will be fixed months down the road on October elections.
"The cloud under which this budget session is going to take place is the elections of 2019, the Governor’s race in particular, but also the fates of all the individual legislators," says Pearson Cross, Associate Professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Later this year, every seat in the Legislature will be up for election. A little over 30% of lawmakers are term limited, meaning they can’t run again for their current seat. Those running are well aware that every vote they cast could be used against them in a campaign.
"I’m not looking for anyone to really stick their neck out a long way because it’s too easy to get it cut off this close to an election," explains Cross.
Robert Travis Scott, president of the non-partisan Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, expects election politics to permeate the Capitol this session.
"This is especially true when your governor is the incumbent running again," he says.
John Bel Edwards is vying for a second term as governor. He's facing two Republican challengers so far, Congressman Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone. But over the next two months, his biggest challenge will be the Legislature.
“There’ll be some attempts to use the budgeting process and maybe some tax proposals as wedge issues," explains Scott, "so that conservatives can really show how they’re different from the liberal Governor."
Those differences start with the budget and how much money the state should spend. Two bills are already on the table. One is favored by Republican leaders in the House, while the other is backed by Edwards and Democrats.
The Governor will give a State of the State address Monday afternoon in front of members of the House and Senate.