Huey Long statue

Gov. Huey P. Long's statue at his grave on the State Capitol grounds was one of the last commissions by famed New York sculptor Charles E. Keck.

Today in The Rundown: An update on where things stand as budget negotiations heat up; a daring political suggestion from U.S. Sen. John Kennedy that Gov. John Bel Edwards' staff called "absurd;" some good news for working parents; and everything else you need to know in Louisiana politics today.

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The Countdown…

Days until the 2018 third special session starts: 4

Days until the start of the new fiscal year: 17

Days until most laws passed in 2018 regular session take effect (unless otherwise stated in law): 48

The Breakdown: Latest on the upcoming special session

Questions remain and things are getting more — not less — complicated as the start of the third special session of the year nears.

Legislators and Gov. John Bel Edwards have been meeting this week to try to hash out an agreement before the Monday start to the special session. No consensus has been reached as the state rolls toward a $648 million fiscal cliff it faces when more than $1 billion in temporary tax measures expire June 30.

During a Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish luncheon on Tuesday, Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, said some Republicans are pushing an extension of two-fifths (or .4 percent) of the expiring 1 percent sales tax as a possible compromise between the one-third (.33) and one-half (.5) proposals that have failed to pass in past sessions.

Meanwhile, House Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, said in an interview with The Advocate on Tuesday that he wants to have the Louisiana Department of Health testify in a budget hearing during the special session so legislators can learn more about whether the department has money in its budget that could be used to plug holes elsewhere. LDH, which has the largest budget of any state agency, was spared from cuts in the HB1 lawmakers approved during the special session and Edwards signed into law.

"I think members have questions about the numbers of funded vacate positions that they have," Henry said, adding that the final version of the budget, as it left the Senate, included millions in previously unidentified "efficiencies" in the health department.

LDH's budget has long been a point of contention for the more conservative GOP-controlled House, with members for years raising questions about the size of the agency's budget without explicitly adopting any major structural changes. LDH oversees the Medicaid health care program for the poor, as well as the state's saftey-net hospitals.

Henry said he's discussed with House staff the potential to use a supplemental budget bill to alter LDH's funding, thought it's unclear what exactly would be deemed within the scope of the governor's session-calling proclamation, which sought to limit budget discussions to one segment of the budget that outlines how additional funds are to be distributed.

"What I'm being told is we can do that," Henry said, adding he does not plan to advocate an entirely new version of House Bill 1. "If members choose that they want to reduce an agency — a supplemental allows for that."

Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said any attempts to re-litigate the budget that passed both the House and Senate, beyond plugging in additional funds via the formula contained in HB1, could be an unnecessary distraction in the 10-day session. A similar HB1 passed in the regular session, but Edwards vetoed it.

"Twice the Legislature passed a budget with items on this 'wish list' to be funded should additional revenue become available," Carbo said. "After they called that a 'responsible' approach, it would be an a waste of time and hint that they're trying to run out the clock and sink the session again with just days remaining until the end of the fiscal year."

The new budget year begins July 1, and the special session must end by 6 p.m. June 27.

The News

JBE: With the state's continued budget issues, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy said in a radio interview that he thinks Gov. John Bel Edwards should resign to give Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser "a shot" at running the state. Team Edwards called the remarks "absurd" and questioned Kennedy's success as an elected official. http://bit.ly/2l8JA9n

Child care: Louisiana's waiting list for child care while parents work or attend school is about to drop by nearly 80 percent after a long-awaited injection of federal dollars. http://bit.ly/2HIWl3B

Courts: A lawsuit challenging Louisiana's public defense system could become a class action because tens of thousands of poor people accused of crimes are at risk in the troubled system that lacks money and oversight. http://bit.ly/2y5ZRFs

Scalise: U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise says he won't run for governor in 2019. http://bit.ly/2y4cAsc

Happening today

  • Noon: Gov. John Bel Edwards will deliver remarks to the Amite Chamber of Commerce at the Florida Parishes Arena in Amite City.
  • 6 p.m.: Edwards will speak at the Louisiana Girls Leadership Academy in Thibodaux.

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Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.