Lawmakers prepare for legislative session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Many questions remain going in to this new regular session of the Louisiana Legislature and a few lawmakers from the Baton Rouge area are anticipating plenty of challenges along the way.

Another session awaits in the Capital City and legislators will arrive with mixed emotions.

"I think I'll be glad when 60 days are up," said state Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge.

Smith said she anticipates some tough decisions in this upcoming session, in addition to mulling over Gov. Bobby Jindal's proposed tax changes and added many unknowns have a lot of her counterparts on edge.

"Things are moving slow and because they're moving slow, people are very reluctant right now to feel good about what's happening and that's the morale issues we have right now," Smith explained.

State Rep. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, agreed the session begins with a lot of uncertainty, but said the goal remains to tackle one challenge at a time.

"We've got to address budget issues, the tax reform package the governor is proposing, some of the other educational reforms we've done in the past, so there are a lot of things ahead of us this session, so I'm very excited to get started and try to solve some of the problems," added Ponti.

A well-documented problem coming in is the state's budget shortfall and one of the many bills prefiled would put a uniform program in place to help all state agencies begin collecting more than a billion dollars in outstanding bills.

"If we pass the bill this session, the governor signs it and takes affect this summer, we'll start seeing additional money this calendar year, which is pretty extraordinary and it won't cost us a penny," said Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy.

A plan, if passed, could go into effect in the summer and according to Kennedy, bring in at least $150 million over the next five years, but until all the numbers are crunched, Ponti said it will be wait and see.

"That's the concern everyone has until the House Budgetary Group comes back and substantiates and tells us where the numbers are and where they think they fall out, then we'll just have to start and go from there," Ponti explained.

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