With the bang of the gavel and a call of “The Senate will come to order. Mr Secretary, open the machines for roll call,” thus began the final day of the special session.
The upper chamber began with a bit of levity -- Senator Ryan Gatti comparing Senate President John Alario to the image on the state flag.
“During this session, you have been that mama pelican – no offense,” Gatti said, in presenting Alario with a state flag that had been signed by all the senators.
Alario accepted it with thanks, and a quip of his own.
“If you look at me, I’m kind of built like a pelican. I have that same shape,” he said, to laughter from the body.
Then the Senate quickly got down to business, taking up the House Speaker’s resolution to tap dedicated funds for state debt payments.
“Clearly it’s an indication to the Speaker and the members of the House that it’s our intention, in exchange for the use of Rainy Day in a compromise, that we would entertain this possibility,” Senate Finance chairman Eric LaFleur said, as he asked for approval of the measure.
Moments later, the tally: “29 yeas, 7 nays, and the bill is finally passed.”
The House then convened and acknowledged that vote, then went into recess. Five hours later they gaveled back in.
The lower chamber approved the conference committee report on the budget cutting bill, and then Speaker Taylor Barras brought the measure to tap the Rainy Day Fund.
“Not all of us probably agree with the number we’ve arrived, but this is the negotiation that is required: a $99-million balance from the Rainy Day Fund.”
This was the big hurdle, needing at least 70 votes to pass.
The voting machines were opened, the lights lit by each name at the head of the House, and… “The votes are 92 yeas, 9 nays and the resolution is adopted.”
After they adjourned sine die, Governor John Bel Edwards thanked the Senate President, the House Speaker, and all the legislators for their diligence and hard work in crafting the compromise. He then made a few observations on the process, and the outcome.
“You know you’re in a good place when nobody’s totally happy, but we were forced to choose between the best of what were poor options, and in the end we have a compromise that I believe works.”