Legislature Facing Busy Final Two Days- Spending plan, tuition increases on tap
by MARK BALLARD - Advocate (excerpt)
This is it. The Louisiana Legislature begins its final hours of debate for the 2010 Regular Session, which began March 29. The state Senate convenes this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. The Louisiana House of Representatives comes in at 4 p.m. Under the state constitution, both chambers must finish up whatever legislation they hope to become law and adjourn by 6 p.m. Monday.
Legislators already have approved a number of measures, including bills that demand legislative oversight of the governor’s plans to privatize mental health services previously performed by state government employees. They rolled back a $15 increase in the cost of drivers’ licenses, and allowed local public school officials to seek waivers from some education laws and rules in order to implement programs aimed at improving students’ performances. Lawmakers still have a full plate of proposals to approve or reject in the remaining hours of the legislative session. These include whether to pay lawyers a percentage of any winnings from Gulf of Mexico oil disaster lawsuits, rather than an hourly wage, and whether to criticize the newly enacted federal health care overhaul.
Overshadowing all other issues is the state’s budget. Legislators must give final approval of House Bill 1358 to address this fiscal year’s budget, which came up about $600 million short in expected revenues. The fix must be applied before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. hen, on July 1, the 2011 fiscal year begins and a new budget — House Bill 1 — is in effect. The Senate approved HB1 late Friday. The real action tonight and Monday will be in the House, which must decide whether to bow to the wishes of Gov. Bobby Jindal and agree to the Senate’s version of how to pay for hospitals, schools and other public services. House Speaker Jim Tucker said he and his staff would review the Senate version of the measure on Saturday. Both pieces of legislation have been scheduled for a vote tonight on whether to accept the Senate’s changes or try to cobble together a compromise.