The Latest: Edwards Talks Of 'Refocus' In Regular Session
Gov. John Bel Edwards
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Latest on Louisiana's legislative session (all times local):
Louisiana's governor asked lawmakers to "refocus" on their work and move past the gridlock of the tax special session that failed to raise a single dollar to help close the budget gap.
Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke Monday to the House and Senate, as the Legislature opened its annual, months-long regular session.
The Democratic governor told lawmakers he was disappointed at how the special session ended last week. Partisan disagreements in the House stalled all tax measures to help close a shortfall estimated around $700 million.
But Edwards says he doesn't want that session's collapse to "hamper us from what's most important — making life better for the people of this great state."
Lawmakers can't consider taxes this session. They'll be charged with suggesting cuts to balance next year's budget.
Louisiana lawmakers have opened their annual regular session, staring at another round of financial woes and struggle over how to balance the budget.
The House and Senate returned Monday. Frustrations are still simmering from the recent special session aimed at passing taxes to replace the expiring taxes that are causing the budget gap. That special session bogged down in House partisan gridlock. No revenue was raised.
In the regular session, lawmakers are charged with balancing next year's budget with an estimated $700 million less in state financing. Education programs and health services could be on the chopping block.
But finances won't be the only item on the agenda.
Lawmakers have pre-filed more than 1,100 bills on topics ranging from abortion and gun control to criminal sentencing laws, hazing and gambling.
Gov. John Bel Edwards' special guests for his legislative session speech highlight two of his priorities: Louisiana's Medicaid expansion and adoption programs.
The Democratic governor is including in the audience Monday a mental health technician who gets health services through the Medicaid expansion, including treatment for an opioid addiction. Khadija Lamraoui has been sober for nearly a year with the treatment.
Edwards also invited Dawn and David Moss, who have three biological children and five adopted children. The Moss family is attending the speech with the Department of Children and Family Services employee who has handled their case, Judy Batiste.
Other guests of the governor include three people who helped run the Alexandria Mega Shelter last year, when it opened its doors to Houston-area resident fleeing Hurricane Harvey.
Louisiana lawmakers begin their regular session at noon on Monday amid high tensions after a failed special session on finances.
The state's financial troubles remain in focus, with an estimated $700 million budget shortfall threatening TOPS college tuition awards, education programs and safety-net health services.
Lawmakers have pre-filed more than 1,100 bills on a wide list of topics. Proposals would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, end Louisiana's use of the death penalty, rewrite hazing laws and legalize sports betting.
Republicans and Democrats differ in their response to the recent Florida school shooting, with GOP lawmakers proposing to allow armed teachers at schools and Democrats seeking new gun restrictions. One lawmaker wants students to be able to wear bullet-proof backpacks.