Two days into the special session, and there’s no indication of smooth roads ahead. Gov. John Bel Edwards rallied hospital and higher education groups to the Capitol Wednesday to help him convince legislators to raise revenue for next year’s budget.
"They're hearing from a lot of different voices. Just make sure they’re hearing yours. And make sure it’s louder than anybody else’s and more persistent than anybody else’s," he urged.
Hundreds of higher-ed leaders, faculty and students filled the room outside the House and Senate Chambers. Universities across the state are facing funding cuts as lawmakers attempt to finally tackle the state's budget shortfall over the next two weeks.
But in order to fix the budget, Edwards needs lawmakers to bring an end to the partisanship that collapsed the special session earlier this year.
"You know we can get back to being Republicans and Democrats next year when we run for re-election. There's plenty of time for that," he said. "It's time to be Louisianians right now."
The Governor also gathered leaders and employees from the state's safety-net hospitals Wednesday morning. Some, like University Hospital and Clinics in Lafayette, have said they'll be forced to close down if they aren't fully funded. Because of that funding uncertainty, notices went out last month to 800 employees at UHC, warning they could lose their jobs if the money isn't there on July 1.
Stacy Mistric is Executive Director of Ambulatory Services at the hospital. She received that letter, but she's not worried for herself — she's worried about her patients.
"We need our elected officials to be as committed as we are," she said, "and I think that with the irresponsible decisions that they're making, they just quite frankly have not been."
While Edwards wants to fix the budget shortfall, House Republican leaders say their goal is to protect Louisiana taxpayers, and they're not persuaded by what they call "political theater" from the Governor.