La. Senate-House fight boils over in last hours of second special session

La. Senate-House fight boils over in last hours of second special session
The Senate chamber at the Louisiana State Capitol (Source: WAFB)
The Senate chamber at the Louisiana State Capitol (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - What was a tense relationship between the Louisiana House and Senate appeared to boil over in the last hours of the second special session.

As lawmakers debated how to distribute the money raised during the second special session Thursday night, the frustrations held by some lawmakers were palpable as they broke out in impassioned speeches in each chamber. An amendment front-loading TOPS scholarships was the breaking point.

"I don't like bullying and that's what bullies do. Bullies put you in a box when you can't do anything about it," said Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria.

Certain Senators said they felt they were being forced to add the amendment in order to get a block of House Republicans onboard with the supplemental budget plan. House lawmakers denied that.

"As a House member, I'm tired of it. As a House member, I'm tired of the Senate always saying that we're jamming them. One of them even said we're bullying them," said Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria. Harris leads the Republicans in the House.

The feud extends beyond just partisan politics. Throughout the second special session, a bipartisan group of Senators under the leadership of President John Alario, R-Westwego, stood in support of many of the governor's tax and revenue proposals to fix the budget.

On the other side of the Capitol, a large group of House Republicans stood in opposition to the proposals. The opposition was in part lead by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie. He had a more optimistic view of the relationship between the two chambers.

"We haven't had any bloodbaths on the floor, we're very cordial. It's not a big fight that's often perceived," Henry said.

The House Republican block interfered in efforts to pass several revenue bills, including killing an effort to remove certain itemized deductions from the individual income tax that would have brought in $88 million to the state next year.

Speaking in a press conference directly after the end of the second special session, Gov. John Bel Edwards called the infighting unproductive, suggesting it interfered in lawmakers' ability to solve the budget crisis. He also did not hold back punches in suggesting who could be to blame for letting things roll out of control, particularly in the House.

"I think with better leadership, better communication, it wouldn't happen that way. Unfortunately that makes it harder for all of us to get our work done, not just me as governor, but the House and the Senate," Edwards said.

Overall, lawmakers advanced bills generating $263 million next year during the second special session. Combining the two special sessions together, lawmakers knocked down the shortfall from $2 billion in February to just over $300 million.

More than $300 million in cuts go into effect starting July 1.

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