Will Lawmakers Ever Leave Baton Rouge?

The governors who preceded John Bel Edwards were no strangers to special sessions. Mike Foster, for example, called seven special sessions over the span of eight years. Kathleen Blanco conducted four of them during her single four-year term. And Bobby Jindal called three during his eight years in the Mansion. 

Edwards, in comparison, has called three special sessions during his first 14 months in office and — take a deep breath — a fourth one could be on the way very soon. 

That would be remarkable. The sitting Legislature has already served more consecutive days in session than any other since the body began meeting in 1812. 

The non-consecutive days aren’t anything to sneeze at either. Mix in the two regular sessions that have been convened thus far, plus an organizational session in 2016 that produced a historic leadership vote in the House, and lawmakers have had to gavel in a session six times in less than a year and a half.

But are we about to see yet another special session in 2017? Maybe. To be certain, no one who makes a living inside of the State Capitol would bet against that happening right now. 

Here’s why… 

The House kicked the main budget bill over to the Senate earlier this month without any new revenue being approved in advance of that floor vote. It was a decision that Edwards later described as a “non-starter,” and the move definitely ran contrary to the priorities of the Senate. 

As a result a staring match is well underway. Who blinks first in this game of political chicken will give us a decent idea of how this regular session will end — and whether it’ll bleed into another special session.

How much, or how little, the governor will be willing to accept from the legislative process is also critical to understanding the possible paths forward. Edwards issued two economic benchmarks at the beginning of the regular session that he wanted lawmakers to reach, starting with the executive budget, which as originally proposed needed another $440 million to be flush. That proved to be a bar too high for the House, which instead passed a variation of a standstill budget and is now negotiating with the Senate on that issue. 

Secondly, the governor asked lawmakers to address $1.3 billion in temporary tax revenue that will vanish in 2018. (The administration refers to this approaching decrease as “The Fiscal Cliff.”) If the House had been more receptive to the urgency in this request, it would have lit a fire underneath tax proposals weeks ago. But with the regular session more than halfway complete, that has not yet happened. 

Four longtime representatives interviewed last week used the same words when asked about tax increases: “Nothing is coming out.” A dozen or so others provided answers ranging from complete uncertainty to half-hearted predictions that a few minor revenue measures might survive. No one, however, pointed to the likelihood of the House making a last-minute push to approve a large stream of new tax bills.

The revenue picture doesn’t look promising at this late stage. There seems to be only a meager appetite in the House for altering tax credits and incentives, which is at least a glimmer of hope. But any ambitions there were for moving significant personal or corporate income tax changes are now waning. 

Representatives are likewise becoming disillusioned about the chances of any major sales tax fixes passing off of the floor, although it’s way too early to forecast failure with any confidence. And that makes it a policy issue to watch. In fact, what the House ultimately decides to do with the state sales tax structure could greatly influence the outcome of the ongoing regular session — and the governor’s decision to potentially call a fourth special session. 

Those close to Edwards are stopping short of labeling the possibility as “inevitable,” which was the word that was used in December to advertise the run-up to this term’s third special session in February. Nonetheless, those same sources note that “inevitable” is a term that could be thrown around sooner rather than later.

With the regular session inching ever closer to its June 8 adjournment, and the timeline becoming uncomfortably tight for the House to send tax bills over to the Senate, many in the administration feel like another special session would be the only worthwhile reaction to the Legislature failing to address next year’s fiscal cliff.

This isn’t news to lawmakers located near the center of the action. A fourth special session was quietly being predicted by some in the leadership in April.

While lawmakers, lobbyists and many others would prefer to come back to Baton Rouge during a fall gathering, the administration may choose to repeat last year’s post-regular session call, when the second special session convened on the same day that the 2016 regular session ended.

The real question, though, is whether lawmakers will act differently if dragged — reluctantly — back into another session.

THE LaPOLITICS REPORT: Picard, Politics & Ponies

In our latest podcast episode of The LaPolitics Report, Tyron Picard of The Picard Group drops in for a conversation about a bygone era in

CAPITOL GAINS: At Home with Clay

 “This is what America wants to see.” That was the promise from a beer-toting Congressman Clay Higgins in this episode of Capitol

SPONSORED: The 106th First Lady’s Luncheon

The Picard Group was honored to attend the 106th First Lady’s Luncheon, honoring The First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump. Held on

IT’S PERSONAL

This story was originally published in LaPOLITICS Weekly on May 4, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by

THIS COULD BE YOU

You could say legislators in Illinois really dropped the ball when they failed to pass an operating budget for their state prior to the 2016

POD: Politics & Drilling, According To Briggs

In this episode of The LaPolitics Report, we talk to Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Gifford Briggs, who recently succeeded his

POD: I’m Sorry, Miss Jackson

Katrina Jackson, a state rep who’s running for senator, talks about her time leading the Black Caucus and working as a legislative staffer.

SPONSORED: Acadian Companies’ 2018 Medic & EMT Of The Year

On Thursday, May 3, Acadian Companies held their annual luncheon to honor Paramedic Jerret Dunlap and EMT Taylor Walden who were selected as

LOWDOWN: John Stefanski on Community

Crowley native and freshman Rep. John Stefanski is here to talk about community, both at home and online. John talks about the influence

SPONSORED: Congratulations!

Congratulations to LHC Group for being recognized as the 2018 Junior Achievement of Acadiana Large Company of the Year. On Tuesday, May 1,

SHELVING SCHEDLER: SOS now an open seat, special election coming

The field of maybe-candidates who were waiting on Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s exit were also quietly hoping for a special election,

Barras’ Ultimatum, JBE’s Tax Reduction & Talk Of A “Reasonable Compromise”

— Has Speaker Taylor Barras issued an ultimatum? Reporters and Gov. John Bel Edwards seem to think so. Journos put out the word via Twitter

ALFORD’S OPINION COLUMN: Democrats Still Finding Their Way At Capitol

Being a Democratic member of the Louisiana Legislature isn’t always unicorns, rainbows and lollipops. Sometimes it can get a little rough.

YOU’VE GOT MAIL: Lawmakers taking hits in their mailboxes

Rebuild Louisiana began sending out direct mail in legislative districts across the state last week in a “continual effort to educate the

Rabalais’ Political History: When a constitutional convention became a full-scale riot

By 1866, Louisiana had been devastated by the ravages of the Civil War. Almost 3,000 of the state’s citizens had been killed in the

Political Chatter

— Former Democratic Rep. Ledricka Thierry announced she is running for District Judge for the 27th Judicial District in the November 2020

Gamard’s Beltway Beat: Netanyahu & Gleason

Two things: — News broke yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accusing Iran of lying about its nuclear aspirations,

#HBD TRACKERS!

— Tuesday 05/01: Gregory Todd Hilburn, Caitlin Berni and Rhett Davis — Wednesday 05/02: Elizabeth McKnight — Thursday 05/03: Former U.S.

WEEKLY: Amendment Bills Reach 6-Year Low

The number of proposed constitutional amendments introduced by state legislators during regular sessions has hit a six-year low, just as

WEEKLY: Dems Prep Party Candidates

In an effort to fill nearly 30 open seats on the Democratic State Central Committee and numerous other positions on parish executive

LOWDOWN: Helena Moreno on Effective Advocacy

Meet Helena Nancy Moreno. She’s the former state representative from House District 93, in the French Quarter. Helena was still in the

SPONSORED: CABL Drafting 2019 Agenda

For more than 50 years, the Council for A Better Louisiana (CABL) has been an advocate for positive change at the state level, focusing on

The House Versus the Senate

“Every year we send a lean thoroughbred race horse to the Senate in the form of a budget, and they send back a dairy cow. Full of milk and a

Stuff Jeremy Didn’t Know Yesterday Morning…

Between a book project on the 1973 constitutional convention, a series of history segments produced by LaPolitics, committee meetings and

Rabalais’ Political History: Mayor Maestri’s Lunch With Franklin Roosevelt

While this week marks the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans, it is also the annual commemoration of a less heralded event in