‘A new chapter’: Gov. Edwards kicks off a legislative session filled with new lawmakers

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — A Louisiana Legislature featuring dozens of new faces convened for the first time this year, with remarks from a governor looking to keep his second-term promises.

Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed a joint gathering of the state House and Senate, kicking off an 85-day regular session.

“It’s the beginning of a new chapter for Louisiana,” Edwards said. “My pledge to you, and to every member, is that I am ready to work with all of you, in good faith, to set aside partisan division and continue to move Louisiana forward.”

Edwards is centering many of his hopes on education — recommending more than $30 million toward higher education, full funding to TOPS and Go Grants tuition aid, a $500 teacher pay raise, and early education investment.

“Early education is like the roots of an oak tree,” the governor said. “It’s the strong foundation for a lifetime of growth, opportunity and prosperity.”

Other ambitions will seem familiar, including Edwards’ quest to get Louisiana’s minimum wage above the $7.25 federal hourly rate.

“Congress, as you know, is out of the business,” Edwards said. “They have made that very clear. It’s on us now. It’s on all of you in this room.”

Legislators are lodging their own hopes, drafting more than 1,100 bills. Republican lawmakers will present bills to limit damages awarded in car crash lawsuits, claiming such measures could help lower car insurance rates statewide. Democrats will suggest laws preventing insurers from calculating gender, age and marital status into premiums.

Other bills will seek to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, centralize sales tax collections, establish a bill of rights for foster children and prevent transgender students from playing sports aligned with their gender identities.

Term limits will cause this session to include more new faces than previous ones. Forty-five of the state’s 105 House members — and 20 of 39 senators — will be new to their chambers.

The legislative session must end by June 1 at 6 p.m.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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