Capitol Access

Weekdays at the bottom of the hour during Morning Edition

Your on-ramp for news and insight from Louisiana's statehouse.

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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.

Women in Louisiana could soon be guaranteed full reports on their mammograms, thanks to a bill that passed the legislature last week.  The story Monica Helo told lawmakers helped make that happen.  

Is Republican House Speaker Chuck Kleckley calling for Medicaid expansion? No, that can’t be right. 

In the 2010 legislative session, Gov. Jindal signed into law a largely symbolic bill declaring all Louisianians free from quote “governmental intrusion in choosing or declining to choose any mode of securing health insurance coverage.” That was shortly after the federal Affordable Care Act passed, and 31 Republican lawmakers, including Kleckley, co-authored the measure.

Fast forward to today. Kleckey pushed the resolution allowing Louisiana’s next governor to pay for Medicaid expansion. Both houses approved, and the governor has no say.

 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.

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.

The bill that was supposed to save the budget from Governor Bobby Jindal’s veto pen sank in House committee Wednesday.

Jack Donahue’s SB 284, known as the SAVE bill, would have created a fee on college students. Students wouldn’t actually pay it; instead, just by registering for classes, they would assign the tax credit for that “fee” over to higher education’s Board of Regents.

“This, to me, just seems like it’s a gimmick,” Gonzales Rep. Eddie Lambert said of the scheme. “Why are we doing this?”

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