Sue Lincoln

Reporter

Sue Lincoln is a veteran reporter in the political arena. Her radio experience began in the early ’80s, in “the other L-A” — Los Angeles.

Since her transplantation to Louisiana 25 years ago, she has covered the state, the capital, and its colorful cast of characters for Louisiana Radio Network, LPB and the Southern Education Desk.

Now she’s focusing her experience and expertise on producing WRKF’s Capitol Access.

Ways To Connect

When the Bond Commission met last Thursday, nothing was said publicly about the precarious situation with the state’s credit rating. Behind the scenes, though, it’s a different story.

“I’ve got a conference call with them Monday,” state Treasurer John Kennedy said in an interview, after the meeting.

Prior to the governor signing the new budget into law Friday, the Jindal administration had conference calls with Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P last week, to which Kennedy was not invited. Instead, he’s remedying that presumed oversight today.

Representative Jim Fannin of Jonesboro completed his final session as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee just over a week ago. Now that some of the dust has settled, I asked the term-limited Republican, a former teacher, to grade the session. He gives the Legislature a C+, saying there were some hits—and some misses.

“Higher education was a hit, in that we were able to fund at the level that we did,” Fannin observed. “And, I mean, our health care was funded -- those things that we had priorities for.”

Critics have said lawmakers didn’t really fix the structural problems of state outgo exceeding state income. But Fannin says they laid some foundations.

With all the uncertainty over the budget at session’s end, I wasn’t able to share with you one of the legislature’s charming traditions—the end-of-term farewells.

“Farewell speeches, you know they’re not really farewell. Y’all get that, right?” Rep. Karen St. Germain asked during her speech.

For the 21 term-limited lawmakers leaving the Legislature, it was a chance to say public thank-yous, shed a few tears, and reminisce on their time at the Capitol.

 The final half-hour of the 2015 legislative session seemed more like an auction than lawmaking, as the House approved dozens of bills in the last 30 minutes. When the gavel came down at 6 p.m. Thursday, nobody was quite sure what-all we had bought — not even Gov. Jindal.

“The process isn’t over,” Jindal told reporters during a post-session press conference. “Obviously, we do want to look carefully through every bill for any unintended consequences.”

Now that we’ve had a few days to examine our “purchases”, here’s what we ended up with:

First, a $24-billion budget.

“We stand here and declare the 2015 regular session adjourned sine die.”

With that, the 2015 legislative session came to a close. The uncertainty and drama continued right up to the 6 p.m. deadline, but the legislature did pass a budget supported by tax increases. They also passed the SAVE plan offset, after all.

Earlier in the day, it appeared dead.

“This is one of the two bills that we did get the SAVE language stripped off of it, and I appreciate your favorable vote,” House Ways and Means chairman Joel Robideaux announced before lunchtime.

No Budget, No Peace

Jun 11, 2015

As the final day of the session begins, there is no budget agreement.

“Members, I would move that we reject the Senate amendments and send House Bill One to conference,” House Appropriations chair Jim Fannin urged yesterday, adding, “We’ve got some work we need to do on it.”

With 93 yeas and zero nays, the House did just that. Now three representatives and three senators will endeavor to privately resolve what 144 lawmakers have been publicly arguing over for the past two months. Yet what if they can’t fix the $1.6-billion deficit before today’s clock runs out?

“At 6 p.m. on the 11th, it’s over,” Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp says. “Everything ends, and we’ve either done it, or we haven’t done it.”

The House spent much of Tuesday giving the Senate the finger.

“Which finger?” Speaker Chuck Kleckley joked at one point.

Although House members did concur with Senate amendments on some bills, when it came to the revenue raising measures — seven bills in the so-called “tax package” — the House rejected what the Senate had done.

Some rejections, like the cigarette tax increase, were tough. The author of that bill, Rep. Hal Ritchie, made a plea for the members to agree with raising the cigarette tax to $1.08 per pack, instead of the $0.68 per pack the House had okayed.

“Who the hell cares what Grover says?”

Apparently the Senate does, while the House could not care less. The Senate passed their “new and improved” version of the budget Monday, with the SAVE plan included, although Sen. Karen Carter Peterson did try to take SAVE out.

“It would take Grover Norquist out of the business of budgeting in the state of Louisiana,” Peterson said, arguing for her amendment to HB 1 -- the budget bill – which failed, 13-26.

Over in the House, there was an attempt to add the SAVE plan language to Adley’s SB 93. Rep. John Bel Edwards and the amendment’s author, Rep. Alan Seabaugh, discussed what SAVE is—and does.

Both the House and Senate worked over the weekend. Yet even Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield – the governor’s point man on tax increases and tax offsets -- notes the two chambers do not appear to be working together.

“There’s a lot of people posturing and a lot of politics right now,” Barfield observes, “So I don’t know what will happen in the end.”

The rift centers on the SAVE plan, creating a college fee that students won’t pay, offset by tax credits paid to higher education. After House Ways and Means killed the bill last week, its author, Senate Finance chair Jack Donahue, resurrected it. He did so by amending the language from his SB 284 onto three other tax bills, each authored by House Ways and Means chairman Joel Robideaux.

24 years after the legislature authorized the prescribing of medical marijuana, the House has approved the Senate’s bill to set up a system for filling those prescriptions.

“So that it can finally be dispensed in a safe, secure, and responsible manner,” explained New Orleans Rep. Helena Moreno, who was handling SB 143 on the House floor for Sen. Fred Mills.

As one might expect, there were objections and counter-arguments. Bossier City Rep. Mike Johnson worried about the state’s image, if the bill passed.

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