SPECIAL SESSION 2020: La. lawmakers gavel in for COVID-colored budget talks

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — Louisiana lawmakers will spend their June crafting a budget shaped heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Legislators began a special session Monday night to tackle spending matters. The session will let state House and Senate members catch up, after the novel coronavirus kept them from the State Capitol for weeks this spring.

The virus has also changed how the state funds its $30 billion-plus budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. Federal funds will plug gaps left after the pandemic slowed tax collections. The tentative plan would cut money from state agencies, but it would keep allocations to TOPS college tuition, K-12, prisons and social services as is.

This marks only the second time legislators have called themselves into a special session, a task a governor has historically performed. The move has given the Legislature’s Republican majority the power to mold the session’s agenda — set to include bills on business tax breaks.

“Those things are going to get married up in this special session, so we can fund things of the highest priority, incentivize business activities and give families relief as well,” state Senate GOP caucus chair Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell) said in an interview Monday.

Democrats have criticized how Republicans have built the June session agenda — or call — claiming the majority party has ignored the minority party’s concerns.

“It’s upsetting that Democrats weren’t involved in this,” said state Rep. Mandie Landry (D-New Orleans). “We’re about to have an eviction crisis, not to mention a foreclosure issue. I just don’t see where any of those fit in this call.”

This special session, which must end by June 30 at 6 p.m., may not be the last of 2020. Lawmakers have suggested they may hold a fall session to address priorities unmet.

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