Make or Break: 9 Days and Counting

May 30, 2017

“There isn’t a whole lot looks like that’s going to get accomplished in this session.”

Senate President John Alario admits he’s feeling pessimistic as we head into the final nine days of this fiscal session, and what happens today may tell the tale of the session’s success or failure.

This morning, House Democrats meet with the House Republican leadership to try and resolve some of the complaints raised last week, after the Democrats blocked passage of HB 3, the capital outlay funding bill.

“We're actually all fighting for the same people, so folks need to know – put those personal differences aside and let's work for the common good,” Alario says.

Then at noon, the Senate Finance Committee meets, and will reveal their proposed changes to the budget sent over by the House.

“I think they're going to do what they think’s right by the people of this state, make a sound decision, and we're going to work together as a team,” the Senate president says, regarding that issue.

Yet the Senate’s teamwork and budget plan won’t necessarily please the House, which convenes at 2 p.m. How the lower chamber feels about the upper chamber’s changes will quickly become evident when the House starts addressing the crucial items on their agenda. Among the indicators will be House votes – or further delays -- on tax reform bills that could assist with next year’s fiscal cliff.

“I’m concerned about not addressing the fiscal cliff coming up,” Alario states. “I would lean to solving the problem now, while we’re in session. That’s what I had hoped we had accomplished, and wouldn’t have to go into special session.”

But over the long holiday weekend, the Governor’s office began drafting the call for a special session, in case the schisms among all the factions cannot be mended.

Another option on the House agenda today is the bill calling for a constitutional convention. If the House bypasses the tax reform bills in favor of the convention bill, Alario says that would be a clear signal they’re refusing to compromise.

“I think it’s the responsibility of this legislature to address it, so I would rather see us in a special session than a constitutional convention,” he observes.

Last, but not least, are the criminal justice reform bills. Alario authored of two of them, which the House received May 18th. They’re scheduled for vetting in  the House Criminal Justice committee tomorrow. But Representative Walt Leger’s bill to reinvest the savings from reducing the incarceration rate is up for full House debate this afternoon. Alario says it’s an issue that has bipartisan, bicameral consensus, yet now seems caught up in the bigger discord.

“I’m hoping that if nothing else gets accomplished, prison reform is a big one that we could do a lot of good for the fiscal posture and for the right thing in the image of this state.”

We’ll see.