The 60-Day Challenge

When the regular session of the Louisiana Legislature convenes on April 10, it will all come down to clock management for lawmakers and the Edwards Administration. So forget all of the marathon metaphors that you know, because this coming session, which concludes on June 8, is definitely going to be a sprint.

How much can the governor, House and Senate realistically accomplish in 60 days? If all involved manage to stay focused, the end results could be bountiful and meaningful. But policymaking is always easier said than done.

Those eight and a half weeks, positioned squarely in the middle of springtime in Louisiana, will host a bevy of distractions for lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ team.

Special interests and legislators will be pushing their own issues that have nothing to do with the budget or tax revenue, which are nonetheless destined to be the session’s featured players. Political action committees will be watching all of the debates closely, attacking those who can vote or veto and building narratives for elections that are more than two years away.

Strip all of that noise away, though, and you’ll see that the primary goal of lawmakers and the Edwards Administration during the regular session will be to dig Louisiana out of its fiscal funk. It’s a broadly-drawn goal, to be certain, but it is without a doubt the focus of most folks who work in the Capitol these days.

That goal applies to the short term, with $1.2 billion in temporary tax money set to disappear in 2018. And it applies to the shorter term, particularly a $400 million budget shortfall that’s forecasted for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

And, yes, the same goal applies to the long term as well, especially as concern builds over the fiscal integrity of state government. No one wants to perpetuate this cycle of budget deficits and deep spending cuts.

Like it has been for the past four sessions, the House will set the tone and the pace of negotiations. If recent history is any indication, the governor will go high for his revenue proposals and the House will go low. Very low. Somehow the Senate will have to insert itself in the middle and find some common ground.

That was the way talks played out during the special session that adjourned last month. There’s actually a bit of negative foreshadowing to glean from that special session as well as some silver linings.

For starters, lawmakers and the administration only had a week and a half to fix a $304 million midyear deficit — and they accomplished just that.

The bad news is that tempers flared, negotiations broke down a few times and disagreements were intense. Which was slightly surprising.

No taxes increases were passed, or even proposed. Spending only had to be cut by $82 million. Nearly $100 million was transferred from the state’s special savings account to help out.

Most of the rancor centered on how to use a few million dollars here and a few million dollars there. While every penny is critical, it’s important to understand that the loudest clashes were produced by what were nickels and dimes in a $27 billion budget.

How will this mentality hold up in a 60-day regular session that hosts truly hefty threats, like a $400 million deficit and a loss of $1.2 billion in temporary tax money?

The pressure will be like nothing we’ve seen so far in this term. In fact, the ability to stay focused on these budget matters will be of the upmost importance to lawmakers.

Other issues will be jockeying for attention, such as criminal justice reform. Influential lobbyists and special interest groups are locked onto the policy push — and they’ll be asking lawmakers to be smart on crime while trying to keep them from looking soft on crime.

Parents and students may end up packing the Capitol as the debate over the TOPS scholarship program gets serious. Email inboxes, text messages and voicemails alone can send a legislator’s district office to a grinding halt. Just try balancing that level of constituent engagement while taking part in what may be one of the most important fiscal debates of modern times.

Conservatives and white Democrats, in particular, are in a delicate spot. Groups like the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority and the Louisiana chapter of Americans For Prosperity will be tracking all votes. They could even drop targeted mailers, launch door-to-door operations and underwrite robocalls in legislative districts during the session.

Eight and a half weeks can seem like an eternity when you’re dealing with that kind of political drama. A reluctance by Republicans to increase taxes, as Democrats dig in for proposed hikes, will only make it seem longer. Still, the primary goal is well known and the timeline to address the related challenges is well defined.

The 60-day challenge is almost here, whether lawmakers and the administration are ready for it or not. Here’s hoping they run out of distractions and delays before they run out of time.

SPONSORED: Legatus In Louisiana

The intersection of faith and the workplace can be a challenge to navigate. And yet, there is an undeniable way that faith and values inform

Happy Birthday, Trackers!

— Tuesday 10/17: Steve Duke and Kevin Gallagher — Wednesday 10/18: Paul Hardy, Connie Caldwell, Kodi Wilson and Robert Morris —

The Beltway Beat

— U.S. Sen. John Kennedy to Gov. Edwards: “Top quality health care for our people is extraordinarily important. (No reasonable person has

Angele Davis For The State Senate?

When you run better than expected in a statewide race and pull 41 percent in your own Senate District 16 — against five opponents, one of

LaHistory: When The Majority Leader Vanished

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the strange disappearance of U.S. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, a proud son of Louisiana. Boggs

Oct. 14: What Happened?

An astounding 86.5 percent of Louisiana’s registered population didn’t vote during this past weekend’s statewide elections. The math is a

POD: One From The Lobbying Corps…

Episode 22 of Season 2 has two guests from Spradely & Spradley, a government relations firm in Baton Rouge. They are Tom and Matt

LOWDOWN VIDEO: Election Zombies & Political Daredevils

We've got election zombies and political daredevils in this latest episode of The LaPolitics Lowdown. See how Louisiana lost a half

MEDIA SNAPSHOTS: About Last Night…

SPONSORED: Tax Reform (& A Tax Cocktail)

Tax reform is one of the nation’s most polarizing issue. The topic is so vast and complicated that few even attempt to understand the

You Should Be Listening To The Supremes

Can you name one of the justices currently serving on the United States Supreme Court? If you cannot, you’re among 57 percent of likely

The Beltway Beat

— Lindsay Lohan’s parents want a lawsuit filed against U.S. Sen. John Kennedy for the “mini-bar” comment. Missed that one? Watch

Happy Birthday, Trackers!

— Tuesday 10/10: Late Supreme Court Justice George Eustis (1796) — Wednesday 10/11: Rick Boudreaux — Thursday 10/12: The one and

Political Chatter

— RELEASE: “During the October meeting on Thursday, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission opted not to vote on a proposal to give

Early Voting Analysis: “Not Much To Say”

The following words and thoughts belong to Ed Chervenak, the director of the UNO Survey Research Center… An analysis of the early voting

Jeff Landry’s New Chief Of Staff

Lynnel Ruckert, the former chief of staff to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, has been hired by Attorney General Jeff Landry to fill the

POD: The Jambalaya Episode

John Diez, the PAC director for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, stops by to discuss what you need to make the perfect

LaHistory: An Unfriendly Month For Governors

Since 1828 there have been seven Louisiana governors who have passed away during the month of October, either while in office or later in

LOWDOWN: The Time Thibodaux Was Governor

Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser reveals a private conversation he had with Gov. John Bel Edwards about his future election plans... We meet

SPONSORED: Experience Is The Best Teacher

Experience is the best teacher. Louisiana-native Emily Bacque has learned the truth behind this adage after much experience in the

ICYMI: The “Next Frontier” For Public Records

The general counsel for the state’s premier newspaper and magazine association believes that the “next frontier for public records law in

Happy Birthday, Trackers!

— Tuesday 10/03: Former Congressman Charlie Melancon, David Crigler, and John Hill — Wednesday 10/04: Former Gov. Buddy Roemer, former

The Beltway Beat

— Majority Whip Steve Scalise returns to Congress and speaks on the floor. WATCH — The Scalise 60 Minutes interview (his first after he

Political Chatter

— His former colleagues in the Legislature probably won’t dig it much, but John Schroder’s new (and likely final) campaign commercial will

POD: Dardenne Goes To The Hoop

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne is this week’s guest on The LaPolitics Report podcast. He reveals how close he came to walking