Capitol Access

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Reports on Louisiana politics, government and the people shaping state policy.

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The fate of next year’s budget rests in the hands of a few legislative leaders, picked by the chambers’ chairs to sort things out behind closed-doors.

This year is a little different than years past. 

First, the House changed some rules so that more voices could be at the table for the final negotiations. 

Monday lawmakers and lobbyists hustled across the rotunda that connects the chambers to assemble the votes to keep their bills alive, lest they fall victim to “Drop Dead Day” at the Capitol.

Sound ominous? 

The Senate has given the House a tough decision.

Senators rewrote the representatives’ version of the budget, re-allocating arguably unstable funds that the House had painstakingly removed. But it may be hard for representatives to vote against the budget. 

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That’s because it sets aside $50 million for a one-time salary bonus for public school teachers.  

After yesterday’s committee approval, Senators will consider whether to try a new way to write the budget, which will more clearly designate what the legislature has the power to allocate.

They’ll also consider whether to try limiting the use of money that doesn’t come from taxes on expenses that occur annually.

The Senate Wednesday dashed the House’s hopes of eliminating from the state budget what some lawmakers consider to be unstable funding.

The fiscal hawks in the legislature would, for example, frown on paying utilities with proceeds from a garage sale.

So the House spent the first half of the session occupied with removing from the budget money that is only available once, like money from the sale of property and court settlements.

The Senate signed off on a measure yesterday that aims to restore funding to health care.

Sounds good right?

The opposition, including twenty-plus-year member of the legislature Senator Robert Adley, was quick to point out that approving the measure may back lawmakers into a corner with the budget.

fusionstream / Flickr

According to federal regulations, Louisiana’s nine-day recreational red snapper fishing season legally starts next weekend. But some fishermen have been landing snapper since the state season started in March — at the risk of also landing a ticket from federal authorities.

The discrepancy between state and federal red snapper authorities is the subject of a bill sponsored by Sen. Bret Allain. Allain wants to put an all-out ban on red snapper, reasoning that if the fisheries are in such dire straits, maybe they shouldn’t be fished at all.

The House Appropriations Committee Wednesday approved $60 million in capital spending for the state’s technical colleges over the next five years — despite the state’s tight purse-strings.

Chairman Jim Fannin insisted that investing in the technical college system will grow the economy and the tax base.

Next year’s method for funding for public schools is a bit up in the air after the Senate Education Committee rejected the proposed formula from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The formula, called the Minimum Foundation Program, or the MFP, was shot down last week because of a clerical error: BESE sent the legislature a draft of the MFP rather the final version.

A House bill that aims to secure state health care spending passed out of the Senate Finance committee yesterday.

The measure would create the "Hospital Stabilization Fund," which would utilize some hospital profits to draw down more federal dollars to help with uninsured patients.

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