What to expect during this year's legislative session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Several big topics – the budget, tax reform, and criminal justice – will take center stage over the next two months at the state capitol. However, with relationships frayed after four legislative sessions in little more than a year, it's unclear if there's much political will-power to get things done.

Many of the taxes put in place during last year's special session to deal with the deficit are set to expire. As a result, legislators are staring down another billion dollar shortfall if they do not act during this year's session.

"The public is ready for our elected at the capitol to fix this," said political analyst, Clay Young.

The governor and others are calling for tax reform, but political analysts say getting legislators to buy in is likely to be an uphill battle. "Republicans don't seem to have a taste for any taxes that increase what businesses are sending to the state capitol here," said Young.

Many of the Democratic governor's proposals are already facing pushback, especially an idea that caught lawmakers on both sides of the aisle off guard: a new tax on business profits.

"Sometimes in politics you offer an extreme option to create a scenario where the option you really want is more palatable. That could be what is going on here. The other side is this is a Hail Mary," said Young.

However, analysts believe one tax may stand a good chance of getting through. Several bills have been filed raising the gas tax, with Republicans and Democrats alike voicing support. "It's likely to pass, but whether it will pass at a level good enough to get our roads back in shape is a question that remains to be answered," said WAFB political analyst, Jim Engster.

The other big focus of the session will be criminal justice reform aimed at cutting back on the state's top-ranking prison population. District Attorneys across the state are already raising red flags about some of the proposals, saying they could be a threat to public safety. Even so, analysts believe there might be room for compromise.

"This is a way to not only cut expenses, but also maybe be more fair to the populous," said Engster.

Other issues are also likely to gain attention this year, including legislation barring the removal of Confederate monuments, as well as a bill eliminating the death penalty in Louisiana.

The session begins on Monday, April 10 at noon.

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