The 2014 Louisiana legislative session is under way, with Governor Bobby Jindal delivering his “State of the State” speech to a joint meeting of the House and Senate. Compared to previous years, the governor offered an abbreviated slate of measures he wants to be able to sign into law.
“Our first and most important priority must be to make sure that we have got the best-trained, most skilled, most productive workers anywhere in the world,” Jindal says, regarding his initiatives to improve workforce development.
“We need to curb frivolous lawsuits,” the governor says of his push to enact tort reform.
“This year we come to you with an aggressive package: to crack down on the awful crime of human trafficking.”
The brevity of the governor’s legislative package surprises Representative Mike Danahay, a Democrat from Lake Charles.
“He put forth a very light agenda,” Danahay says, with a look of puzzlement. “You know, there wasn’t anything substantial that’s going to be very controversial.”
Governor Jindal said nothing about the bills filed to expand Medicaid, raise the minimum wage, or the bill that would open the executive branch to more public scrutiny. Nor did the governor mention efforts to alter his previous reforms—like education and retirement—that have fared poorly in the courts.
Danahay, who refers to himself as a “sometime Fiscal Hawk”, says the state budget is his top concern this session.
“We need to quit using one-time money for recurring expenses,” Danahay says, but adds, “Saying that and doing it are two different things.”
Democrats also have concerns about one-time money in the budget. New Orleans Senator Karen Carter Peterson is blunt in her criticism of the governor’s plan for funding state expenses.
“The budget that has been presented by this governor is a farce,” Peterson says. “He is doing exactly what he said he would not do.”
Yet the Democratic Caucus, led by Representative John Bel Edwards of Amite, says they will work with the governor and the GOP on things like workforce development and ending human trafficking.
“We pledge to work with the governor and our Republican colleagues to do what’s right for Louisiana,” Edwards says.
But, he adds, Democrats will oppose tort reform while pushing forward ideas the governor opposes, like increasing the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct Rep. Mike Danahay's party affiliation. Danahay was misidentified as a Republican. He is a Democrat.