Regular session ends without capital outlay budget

Regular session ends without capital outlay budget

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A second special session to raise an estimated $600 million needed to fill the shortfall in next year's operating budget has long been expected by lawmakers.

What was not expected was a bizarre move in the House which will add HB 2, the state's capital outlay budget, to special session as well.

The capital outlay budget holds the finances for all the state's construction projects, including road work and college campus upkeep.

As the regular session came to a close, bill author Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, never brought the budget up for a vote, effectively killing it. House members attempted several times to move the bill forward without success.

Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed disappointment in the situation when addressed press members after the regular session end.

"I can tell you in my 9th year now, I have not seen that sort of a failure in leadership where you don't communicate," Edwards said.

The move also drew the ire of Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, who handled the bill on the Senate side.

"The actions of Chair Abramson truly threaten our bond rating because there are obligations we have as a state that will not be met," Morrell said on the Senate floor. "Ladies and gentleman, you know what's unprecedented? Not letting your members vote on a bill."

After the regular session ended, Abramson explained why he didn't bring the bill up for vote. He said Senate amendments added to HB 2 in the final week of session created legal and technical issues that he said could not be resolved in conference committee in time.

He noted moving projects, moving cash line credits and language amendments as among the legal issues.

Abramson re-filed HB 2 at the start of the special session.

"Ultimately, the decision was made in talking with the speaker that we needed to wait and get it right because we have time to get it right. So, everybody's projects are taken care of but we make sure it's legally and technically correct," Abramson said.

Edwards and Morrell both noted that concerns over HB 2 had not been raised with either the Governor's Office or Senate staff ahead of Monday.

"If there were problems, whether they were technical or legal or otherwise, the reason you have the conference committee procedure is to iron out those differences and to fix the bill. Unfortunately, that's not the path that was chosen by the leadership in the house," Edwards said.

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