If the halfway mark of the Louisiana Legislature’s regular session were a midterm exam, lawmakers would surely score a failing grade.
With the budget still a mess — and the House leadership and Gov. John Bel Edwards at loggerheads again — the session so far has been inconclusive — and wearying for all concerned.
We expect — or rather, hope — that rather than accept a tragically underfunded budget, the governor will call legislators back for a special session. To save taxpayers money, lawmakers should end the regular session early and use the extra time for a special session.
But that prospect is looking a little dicey right now.
It's technically the midpoint of the general session, and some of the issues that have been debated are significant, including an important proposed reform in the way Louisiana’s juries decide felony cases. Proposals restricting, or expanding, carrying of weapons — arming teachers, for one dumb idea — were high-profile in light of the Florida massacre at a high school. However, little of note has passed.
A bill authorizing bulletproof bookbags is still alive, though we wonder how useful that will be should a new tragedy occur.
The governor's nonfiscal agenda hasn't prospered in the GOP-led Legislature, either. Education measures seeking to reverse still-controversial changes made by former Gov. Bobby Jindal to public school laws have been spurned. Edwards backed a bill to prohibit public schools from penalizing students because they have unpaid lunch debts; it too was scrapped.
For a third year, Edwards-backed proposals to raise Louisiana's minimum wage and to enact new laws aimed at reducing the pay gap between men and women have failed to win support. The latter is particularly opposed by businesses who feel that they would be targets of lawsuits.
Nor can the governor get agreement on modest increases in fishing and hunting licenses, despite the looming crisis in the Conservation Fund.
At the same time, the governor's opposition led the main state retirement system to withdraw a new "hybrid" retirement plan for new rank-and-file employees. "If we ever wonder why the state can’t get out of some of the fiscal messes it gets into, this could be a prime example," the Council for a Better Louisiana commented sharply.
We can say that about a lot of issues. But this litany only makes it more important that lawmakers wrap it up and deal with the budget and tax issues before the June 30 end of the fiscal year.