Two legislative leaders weigh in planned third special session
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Any day now, Gov. John Bel Edwards could announce the date for yet another special session after lawmakers failed to raise new revenues in the special session that ended Monday. And two prominent local lawmakers have different opinions on whether a special session is a necessity.
The session ended in an uproar as Rep. Alan Seabaugh filibustered to block a second vote on a New Orleans lawmaker's bill to keep half of the expiring fifth penny of the state sales tax in place.
"And yes, I am trying to run the clock out because we voted on this bill before," said Seabaugh, R-Shreveport.
The governor was not amused and sharply criticized the House over the session's results.
"That distinct, hardcore caucus of no in the House of Representatives," said Edwards moments after the session ended.
In the waning minutes of the session, lawmakers approved a new operating budget for the budget year that begins July 1. But bills to provide new revenue to help plug the nearly $700 million funding shortfall for the new fiscal year failed to win approval as the clock ticked down on the session.
Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, chairs the House Appropriations Committee and is one of the GOP leaders in the House of Representatives. He criticized Governor Edwards over the session.
"He does not seem to have been able to bring a coalition of Republicans and Democrats together to pass the legislation that he thinks the state needs, and by continuing to call us in over and over again with the same message that members just aren't buying at this point seems to be a waste of taxpayers' dollars," said Henry.
Democratic Rep. Walt Leger is House Speaker Pro Tempore. Leger said Tuesday that he firmly believes that a second vote on his bill to renew half of the expiring penny sales tax would have been successful had it been allowed.
"I absolutely think that we would have passed that on a second try. I was really frustrated that we didn't pass it on the first try," said Leger.
But Henry said many House members were turned off.
"The fact that the La. Dept of Health comes up with $40- to $50 million of savings at the last possible moment was very skeptical amongst members, and I think that was one of the issues that members had with raising additional revenue," said Henry.
Leger believes the electorate must put pressure on lawmakers to reach solutions.
"We got caught up in this partisan back and forth game where we were arguing over .17% of a cent of sales tax. So we're talking about 17 cents on a hundred dollars spent. It is unnecessary, but we're going to have to go back and get back to work," said Leger.
FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman said partisan politics have taken hold at the State Capitol.
"Right now we're seeing people with philosophical views who are just backing into their corners, not willing to compromise, and that's why we keep reaching stalemates," said Sherman.
Still, the governor is intent on calling another special session to give lawmakers another shot at raising new revenues and avoid deep budget cuts.
"I think he's going to have to call us in, even if it's just to handle revenue, and we fund TOPS, higher education, sheriffs, district attorneys and all the other agencies across the state government. Otherwise, you'll have a real shutdown," said Leger.
But Henry is not convinced of a different outcome on tax measures.
"My personal opinion is I think they're losing votes by bringing us back again. I think when members go back home, to go back to special session for these members who voted for a tax four and five times that continues to fail, I think that's going to be very difficult to pass without cooperation from the governor, the Senate and the House," said Henry.
Sherman said with voting districts more ideologically uniform, many politicians who tow the party line have little to lose.
"And when we see that happen we see more extreme candidates get elected, folks less willing to compromise and folks who will not pay an electoral price for being obstructionists but would pay an electoral price if they voted in favor of a compromise," said Sherman.
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