It appeared no lawmakers wanted a special session, so when Appropriations chair Cameron Henry told the House there was no budget deal – with 30 minutes left on the regular session clock -- the end of the regular session turned into something resembling a bench-clearing brawl.
“The Senate seems to be stuck on 100% of a wrong number,” Henry said of the Senate’s insistence on appropriating all the estimated revenue for the next fiscal year. “I don’t think that’s in the best interest of anyone in this room, or of the four-and-a-half million people that we represent. We negotiated in the best faith…”
Speaker Taylor Barras interrupted, “Representative Marcelle, why do you rise?”
”What you’re really saying – that you’re not willing to negotiate any further with the Senate on what you think is best for all the constituents of Louisiana,” Representative Denise Marcelle of Baton Rouge lobbed at Henry.
Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger rose to make a motion.
“We can’t possibly have sat here all day long and not come to some point where we can have a vote on this. So I move that we discharge the conference committee,” Leger requested.
It was a move that, if passed, would have allowed the full House to vote on the Senate version of the budget bill.
After several minutes of consultation with House Clerk Butch Speer and Henry, Speaker Barras ruled: “It’s not an appropriate motion.”
“We are throwing up procedural barriers to voting on the budget!” Leger protested the call. But then he made another motion.
“I’d like to move to direct the committee to report House Bill 1 to the committee of the whole.”
A conference at the Speaker’s dais ensued, but a vote was ultimately taken, with the motion passing 53-50.
Henry quickly made a motion to reconsider the vote, saying he feared members hadn’t known quite what they were voting on:
“We were voting to force either the Speaker or myself to sign the bill.”
Conference at the dais again, but then the clock ran out – ending the regular session with no budget, nor capital outlay bill.
Thirty minutes later, the special session convened, and within minutes adjourned until Monday.
Governor John Bel Edwards called the regular session ending “an epic failure of leadership”.
“The House leadership clearly chose to put party politics over the needs of the people of Louisiana,” the governor said. “And now we’re headed into an unnecessary and costly special session, where the options before them won’t be any different than they were this time.”