Legislature Opening Louisiana

Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzalez, left, and Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, react after Cortez broke SchexnayderÕs gavel for the opening of the 2020 general legislative session in Baton Rouge, La., Monday, March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) ORG XMIT: LAGH108

Louisiana Senate President Page Cortez said Monday the state Legislature will likely extend its suspension of the legislative session until after the state’s stay-at-home order is set to expire, in mid-April.

Cortez, a Lafayette Republican, said the Legislature is obligated to come back March 31 because when lawmakers adjourned a week ago to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus, they set that date to return. Also, Cortez said lawmakers would read in late-filed bills that day.

But he said the Legislature will likely convene, read in the bills and then go home until after April 13, when the stay-at-home order put in place by Gov. John Bel Edwards is set to be lifted.

Cortez said that while he doesn’t want to speak for House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, he believes Schexnayder agrees the move is “prudent.” Schexnayder did not return calls Monday.

Cortez added that the state budget process is in flux, and he indicated a meeting of the Revenue Estimating Conference, which decides how much money the state has to spend, could be delayed after initially being set for April 8th. The budget is further complicated by cratering oil prices and federal stimulus money that will dramatically change revenue streams for the state.

“Everything is sort of a mystery at this point,” Cortez said. “We’re working on every 12 hours getting new information.”

The Legislature suspended its work only a week after gaveling in on March 9. Hours into the session, Edwards announced Louisiana had confirmed its first coronavirus case. As of noon Monday, the state had 1,172 confirmed cases and 34 confirmed deaths. The virus had spread to 41 of 64 parishes.


Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com