BR.sessionstarts.031020. 0176 bf.JPG

Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, right, shows the busted gavel that broke on the first strike of him calling the joint session to order as House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, left, watches as the 85 day regular legislative session begins Monday March 9, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La.

Looks like the Louisiana Legislature will be unable to accomplish its legally required task before adjourning a week from tomorrow: pass a state operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Republican majority signed the petition to reconvene in a special session one minute after the regular session ends at 6 p.m. June 1.

The Legislature’s call for overtime, which legally must list the policies they’ll work on, includes 41 items, such as suspension of the corporate franchise tax, the so-called tort reform, and adjusting local hurdles to the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP).

The special session will cost taxpayers an additional $1.68 million or so (about $60,000 a day). Legislators will receive an average $4,669 more per diem for the special session. That’s on top of the $7,889 per diem pay received by lawmakers during the 49 days the State Capitol was closed, session was suspended, and they stayed at home to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzalez, reopened the regular session May 4 talking about the sacrifice lawmakers were making by prioritizing their bills so that only about a third would get committee hearings.

Legislators needed the time to focus on helping the economy recover after a couple months of COVID-19 closures before the regular session adjourns. “Those are the priorities,” Schexnayder said when announcing the session would resume.

That, and approving a balanced state budget in time to authorize spending, for next 12 months, for services such as supplemental pay for law enforcement, as well as funding for public schools, colleges, and healthcare.

The statistics, however, don’t support the laser focus promoted by legislative leaders.

Obviously, the state budget, which hasn’t yet received a vote in either chamber, isn’t expected to get approved by the end of the regular session. And those COVID-19 economic recovery bills, at least according to Democrats, look a lot like the tax breaks and accommodations that the business community has long sought, such as “tort reform,” abolition of the franchise tax, and some way to maneuver around the new-found local government ability to stop the state from forgiving local property taxes to manufacturers.

House members filed 975 bills and concurrent resolutions, scheduling committee hearings for 603 of them – about twice as many instruments as promised, according to the Louisiana News Bureau, which tracks legislation for lobbyists. Senators filed 590 measures and scheduled 230 of them for committee hearings – a little closer to the aspiration of handling only about one-third of the instruments filed initially.

Email Mark Ballard at