Legislature to consider everything from medical pot to Road Home - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Legislature to consider everything from medical pot to Road Home money


NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The 2014 Louisiana Legislative session convenes Monday in Baton Rouge and state lawmakers will tackle issues involving everything from the governor's proposed spending plan for the new fiscal year to medical marijuana.

While the state's fiscal situation is less dire this year, money fights are anticipated over the course of the spring legislative session.

"At least this is not quite as bad as it's been in the past, in the past several years we've had to go in and cut budgets drastically, this year it looks like things are beginning to stabilize and we'll at least be able to hold where we are, but there will still be some struggles in there," said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has proposed a nearly $25 billion dollar spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Jindal has made workforce development a priority, something Alario supports.

"We've got lots of new industry coming in to Louisiana and we need a trained workforce to provide the people to make those jobs work," said Alario.

Still, some lawmakers criticize Jindal's budget.

"The budget that the governor has proposed this year is largely disappointing because it still raids a number of statutory funds to make itself solvent, it has no real gains in higher ed, no significant gains," said Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.

A local political analyst weighed in on claims by some that Jindal is using one-time revenues to bolster his proposed budget.

"A number of legislators are upset with that, they feel that it's being disingenuous, that the governor needs to present a budget where revenue matches expenses," said UNO political analyst Ed Chervenak.

There are also bills to expand the use of medical marijuana.

"Maybe it'll get a hearing, but, you know, this is a culturally conservative state and things like that are frowned upon," Chervenak said.

An issue affecting thousands of Katrina flood victims will be brought to the legislature. Morrell wants to codify in law what the state can and cannot do in terms of reclaiming Road Home hurricane recovery dollars.

"It was obvious at those hurricane meetings that they were not doing anything near their own due diligence before annoying and harassing people with these letters. We're going to try and resolve that," said Morrell.

Some people in the city have complained that they have received letters demanding repayment of recovery funds even though they had the required work done on their homes.

A fight is also expected over Common Core, the national initiative at work in dozens of states that details what students in public schools should know by the end of each school year.

"There's a sense that outsiders are imposing their standards and their will on Louisiana school children. Forty states have already adopted these standards," Chervenak said.

And an issue making headlines in some other states could be part of the session, as well.

"Same-sex marriage I think will be on the agenda. I don't see them going very far, but they certainly in a democracy have a right to bring them up," said Alario.

Bills to raise the minimum wage and an expand Medicaid eligibility as part of health care reform are expected to be debated, but in the Republican-dominated House and Senate,  chances of passage is viewed as slim.

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