After 19 weeks in session — the longest in the Louisiana Legislature’s history — much was accomplished, but the future remains precarious, or so sums up the thoughts of the big three Baton Rouge-based good-government think tanks.
Steven Procopio, policy director at Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, told the Leaders With Vision 22nd Reality Check luncheon that legislators did generate $1.5 billion of the $1.8 billion Gov. John Bel Edwards said he needed to bridge the budget shortfall.
“He got about 80 percent of what he wanted,” Procopio said.
But most of the revenue comes from taxes that will drop off by the end of 2018, setting the state up for another $2 billion deficit the year after next.
Jan Moller, of the Louisiana Budget Project, praised lawmakers “for ending the pernicious practice of balancing the budget using ‘one time’ dollars that have no replacement source in future years.”
But “one time” money seems to have been replaced with short-term taxes.
“Particularly disappointing was the Legislature’s failure to restructure the state income tax. Louisianians pay some of the lowest per-capita income taxes in the nation, thanks in large part to generous deductions that mostly benefit the wealthiest households and are not found in most other states,” Moller wrote in his post-game analysis.
“For the first time, in a long time, we now know the means that we are going to have to live within,” Council for A Better Louisiana, headed by Barry Erwin, stated in its post-session analysis. “Certainly challenges remain, but it would be nice to think that instead of being constantly buried in our budget woes we might actually have the opportunity to turn our attention to more productive things – like plotting a better future for our state.”
U.S. House GOP win charity baseball game
U.S. House Republicans finally got to Democratic star hurler, New Orleans Congressman Cedric Richmond, and squeaked out its first win in the annual Congressional Baseball Game since 2008.
Richmond entered Thursday’s charity match with 5-0 record, 2.85 ERA and 45 strikeouts. But he had what The Hill, an inside politics newspaper, called a “shaky” outing, allowing six runs in six innings.
Going into the game, Richmond told Roll Call, another congressional reporting service, that his pitching could be affected by the shoulder surgery he had a couple years ago; plus he’s getting older, and his fastball has slowed a bit.
Still, the Republican infield blunders kept the Democrats in the game until U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., hit a walk-off single that scored the winning run.
Session ends with dramatic conclusion
The aisles and galleries of the Louisiana House chamber filled three- and four-deep during the last 45 minutes of the second special session of people watching the dramatic conclusion to an unprecedented 19 weeks of legislating.
Debate over a scheme to “front load” TOPS payments had threatened to derail a bill that if it didn’t pass before midnight would mean most of those new revenues lawmakers had battled over would be raised but could not be spent.
Then the power flickered at the State Capitol, turning off the building’s internet, knocking the cameras off the air and casting the chamber into its shadowy night-time lighting. Just like in 1930s, when the Legislature met at night to avoid sticky hot Baton Rouge days, the only way to see the denouement was to be there in person.
At the moment of the electrical glitch, New Orleans Rep. Walt Leger III, of New Orleans, was questioning the wisdom and the constitutionality of front-loading TOPS. “When I said the word unconstitutional, the lights went out in here. I would count that as an endorsement,” he said.
The budget bill narrowly passed with three votes more than necessary, then a brief second of total silence filled the chambers, followed by a burst of applause.
Dems call out GOP tactics to fund TOPS
The last-minute legislative drama was fueled by the House GOP’s front-loading gimmick, in which all the tuition for some 51,000 students will be paid by taxpayers when state colleges and universities start their fall semesters in a couple months. Come January, however, college students are going to have pick up 60 percent of their tuition costs.
Republican leaders said it would give parents time to plan because there was not enough money to fully fund the popular entitlement that pays tuition for students who meet modest academic standards. Democrats countered that the legality of the scheme likely would compel Gov. John Bel Edwards to veto, setting up the political narrative for the next few months: House Republicans fully funded TOPS.
Alexandria Rep. Lance Harris said pretty much that in an impassioned speech, during which the head of the House Republican caucus also blamed the state Senate for the ills of the past 19 weeks.
New Orleans Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, head of the Louisiana Democratic Party, took the Senate floor to say while House Republicans may not be terrorists, they were trying to hold the Senate hostage. Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, called them bullies.
BESE member: Prizes show value of educators
Gary Jones, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, was among BESE members who last week posed with candidates for teacher and principal of the year.
Jones said when he was in the running for state’s top superintendent, he watched the teacher and principals who landed the honor win cars.
When he was announced as the winner he figured a car was on the way.
Jones got a paper weight instead.
He joked that the prizes show the value of superintendents versus teachers and principals.
Car winners actually get the use of the vehicle for a year.
La. treasurer to speak to BR press club
State Treasurer John Kennedy will address the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday.
He will discuss the U.S. Senate race and the state budget.
Press Club meets on Mondays at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel, which is located at 102 France St., in the East and West Baton Rouge Room. Parking is free in the garage off Mayflower Street.
Lunch, which is served at 11:30 a.m., is $13 for members and $17 for nonmembers.
The public is invited, but only members of the Press Club and the news media are allowed to ask questions during the question-and-answer portion of the program.
Insurance commissioner to visit ‘Engster Show’
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon will be a guest on Monday’s “Jim Engster Show.”
Donelon will discuss the impact of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and insurance rates in a state challenged by hurricanes and a higher rate of motorists without coverage.
The “Engster Show” airs weekdays from 4 p.m. To 6 p.m. on WBRP, Talk 107.3 in Baton Rouge and on WSLA, AM 1560 in New Orleans.
Ex-councilman to visit chamber of commerce
Former East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilman Smokie Bourgeois is addressing the parish Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday at noon.
Bourgeois served for two terms on the Metro Council. He is the owner of George’s restaurants.
The meeting will be at Café Américain, 7521 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge. The reception begins at 11:45 a.m.
The meeting is open to the public. Lunch is $17.50, payable to the restaurant.
For more information, contact Woody Jenkins at woody email@example.com
U.S. Rep. Graves to visit GOP Women of BR
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, will address the Republican Women of Baton Rouge on Wednesday at 11 a.m.
The event is at Café Américain, 7521 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge.
Lunch is $20. For reservations email Dina Leon at dinal@performance-br.
Senate candidates to speak at business forum
A handful of the candidates running for U.S. Senate were invited to speak at a Wednesday forum hosted by the Louisiana office of the National Federation of Independent Business, the Louisiana Restaurant Association and the Louisiana Retail Association.
The candidates invited to participate were Republican Congressmen Charles Boustany, of Lafayette, and John Fleming, of Minden; State Treasurer John Kennedy, of Madisonville; and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish.
The organization is requiring reporters to register at sarah.waters@NFIB.org in order to cover the event.
The event begins at 11:30 a.m. at Ruffino’s De La Ronde Hall, 320 3rd St., Baton Rouge.
Purchase tickets at eventbrite.com/e/us-senate-candidate-forum-tickets-25841448468, or contact Sarah Waters at sarah.waters@NFIB.org or call (615) 872-5331