With the Legislature in disarray even more than usual, but scheduled to come back to the State Capitol on Monday, there will be weeks ahead before a June end to the regular session.
But why, next week, can't legislators deal with the problems they've left undone this week?
It's because the Louisiana Constitution, since 1993, has made a distinction between general and fiscal sessions of the Legislature.
It may be past time to rethink that idea.
When the House and Senate come into a fiscal session, they are able to pass taxes and otherwise deal with revenue measures, the definition of which sometimes skirts a fuzzy line. In the fiscal session, legislators may only introduce a limited number of bills, although those rules also can involve some tweaking.
In a general session, like this year's, legislators can introduce any number of bills, in a longer session. And while a budget can and must be passed, as this year, legislators cannot raise taxes during a general session to deal with budget shortfalls.
At one time, maybe this was a good idea. Long general sessions every year often tried the patience of part-time citizen lawmakers. Businesses worried, in those halcyon populist days, that every year would be a tax-raising year, aimed at you-know-who.
We supported, albeit with some misgivings, the 1993 constitutional amendment.
Today, the special session that should have dealt with the fiscal crisis at the State Capitol is in ruins. But the regular session will go on, apace, without the flexibility for lawmakers to try to reconcile their deep differences on taxes; a budget may be passed in the regular session, but it is likely to be only a placeholder for a June special session — at which revenues can be part of the mix.
So we face another special session, at up to $60,000 per day of partisan bickering.
"Our constitution ties our hands," said Rep. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, at the end of the first special session of the year, because it is now inevitable that there will be a second.
Let's rethink the whole idea.