BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) – Louisiana’s legislature should be returning to work on May 4, getting in an abbreviated session before the June 1 adjournment date.
Senate President Page Cortez and House of Representatives Speaker Clay Schexnayder held a joint press conference at the State Capitol to explain how the remainder of the session will work.
Cortez said returning on May 4 will allow the legislature 28 days to complete its work while minimizing the number of committee meetings taking place. The number of committee meetings will be limited per day with some even taking place in more than one room in order to comply with social distancing rules. Committee meetings will be limited to 90 minutes, with room sanitizing scheduled in between hearings. Protocols are also being put in place to provide personal protection equipment to legislators and staff, while providing temperature checks. Visitors to the Capitol will be limited and subject to safety regulations.
Cortez said of the 500 bills originally filed by senators, maybe one-third of them will be actively taken up by committees. While Schexnayder didn’t give specifics, he mentioned the House will likely take up a similar amount.
A great amount of legislation, however, is currently in limbo due to the state of the economy. Cortez said he expected sales tax collections to be significantly lower than originally expected, while the full fallout may not be known until the fall. The Revenue Estimating Committee has yet to provide updated numbers, though an update is expected by May 11. Neither man ruled out a special session in the fall.
Also, Cortez and Schexnayder said there hasn’t been a lot of guidance on how federal aid money from the CARES Act can actually be spent. While 45% of the money – roughly $800 million – is set aside for local use, it is not known how the remaining funds can be used, which could impact budgetary decisions.
Cortez and Schexnayder said they expected tort reform to be one of the major issues for the legislature in the remainder of the session. An issue that seems to have less support from legislative leaders is a petition being circulated by a group of Republican lawmakers looking to overturn Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order.
Cortez said there’s too little information on how such a move could impact federal aid. Specifically, he mentioned that conversations with U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise indicate that overturning Edwards’ emergency order could impact Small Business Administration disaster loans.
“There’s just too many unanswered questions for me to support it at this point,” said Cortez.