Lawmakers prepare as regular session set to begin Monday

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - State lawmakers return for a three-month regular session of the legislature, on the heels of a special session which failed to close a deficit estimated as high as a billion dollars.

Lawmakers have a lot of items on their agenda, from gambling expansion, to sexual harassment training, but money matters are expected to hover over the proceedings, like a dark cloud.

"They should avoid a sequel of last session which was chaos, calamity, and confusion," said Xavier political analyst Silas Lee, PhD.

The new session, beginning at noon Monday, will focus on a number of issues, including gun control, and gambling expansion.

"A lot of people who were dead set against it now say I won't do it...but if people want to do it, I'd rather take their gambling revenue than raise sales tax," said La. Senator Danny Martiny, R-Metairie.

Bills to allow expansions of riverboat gaming, and video poker are among the more than 1,145 bills that have been pre-filed. They include a measure that would allow a gambling boat to set up shop on the Tangipahoa River, a stone's throw from St. Tammany.

"One of my biggest challenges is creating jobs and this project is one of those...500 jobs, hotel conference center, restaurants it's a big project," said Tangipahoa Parish President Robbie Miller in February.

Other pre-filed bills seek to strengthen gun control, and set up sexual harassment policies.

"Given the climate we're in absolutely yes, politics always follows society and that's what we're seeing now," said Lee.

Underlying the debate, the renewed strength of the legislative black caucus, which bottled up sales tax increase bills in the special session, because they are seen as regressive.

"They are not fans of sales taxes, and they took a strong stand, and unified front, and was supported by people of this state," said Lee.

But it remains to be seen, if lawmakers get much done.

"Consider the backdrop, US News says we're 50th in quality of life...that's serious," said Lee.

Governor John Bel Edwards has asked lawmakers to cut the regular session short, so that they can meet again in yet another special session to address the deficit. He is also pushing bills to tackle poverty, and raise the minimum wage.

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