Final action needed on budget, abortion bills as legislative session winds down

Final action needed on budget, abortion bills as legislative session winds down

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As the 2019 state legislative session enters its final days, political observers say it has been less contentious compared to recent years.

FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman said there tends to be less sparring during election years.

"Legislative sessions in election years tend to be ones without a lot of controversy. This one held pretty true to norms,” Sherman said.

Still, some bills nearing final passage at the state capitol are generating lots of debate in the public sphere.

Last week hundreds of people rallied in New Orleans against anti-abortion legislation, blocking a busy CBD street during the lunch hour.

And this week, a Senate-passed bill to outlaw abortions in the state when a fetal heartbeat can be detected faces final passage in the House of Representatives. Governor John Bel Edwards has indicated he will sign the measure into law if it reaches his desk.

Sherman said the legislation presents a political quagmire for the governor.

"For the governor in an election year, for a Democrat in a red state, the abortion bill is actually a mixed bag. It gives him a chance to embolden his credentials to those conservatives he needs, but to those progressives, those pro-choice voters who now have to cast the ballot for a pro-life Democrat, it might take away a little enthusiasm among his base,” Sherman said.

Lawmakers spent Memorial Day trying to finalize work on various pieces of legislation, during which time the Senate Finance committee advanced legislative branch funding bills.

"These two agencies obviously are very important aspects of the legislative branch, and actually both of them play a big role in looking after the people’s money,” Senate President John Alario said.

And while the budget for the new fiscal year has not been finalized yet, state lawmakers are expected to approve a pay raise for teachers and school support workers.

"For Governor John Bel Edwards, he gets teacher pay, preserves funding for health care and higher education,” Sherman said.

But once again, the governor’s ongoing push for a higher minimum wage got little traction.

"Those long-standing issues of equal pay and minimum wage, no progress there but a pretty decent session without too much controversy compared to the lasts few years,” Sherman said.

The regular session must end by June 6.

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