BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - State lawmakers return to the state capitol Monday for a three-month-long regular session. On the docket is more than 1,000 bills, focused on everything from gun control to the minimum wage.
The session kicks off just a week after a special session went off the rails. Lawmakers went home after two weeks, without doing anything to fix the state's budget mess.
"You've seen a breakdown in communication, a breakdown in trust," said Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner.
Political analyst Jim Engster said it is going to be hard to heal those wounds when legislators return. "There's bound to be some residual effect of what happened in the special session," he said.
Some lawmakers are proposing age restrictions for guns in the aftermath of the deadly Florida school shooting. Others want teachers to be allowed to carry weapons with them in the classroom.
"That's a hot ticket item around the country. And Louisiana always seems to dive headlong into something that's making news in the rest of the country," Engster said.
After controversy struck state government over sexual harassment cases, some lawmakers want to revamp harassment training requirements.
Then there is gambling: several lawmakers are proposing bills that could roll back restrictions on casinos, possibly expanding the industry in the state. Some believe this could help generate more revenue for the state, helping with the ongoing budget problems.
Meanwhile, the governor is once again calling for a boost to the minimum wage - an initiative that has failed in the past. "At this point, it looks like those bills are dead on arrival," Engster said.
Added to that, there are also bills modifying the TOPS program, including several changing GPA requirements. There is also a proposal that would force students to pay back their award if they drop out of school or fail to meet certain requirements while in college.
Other lawmakers are proposing changes to Medicaid, including adding work requirements for able-bodied adults.
Percolating in the background for the entire session will be the budget, predicted to be about $700 million short after lawmakers did not act during the special session.
Will they be able to find the cuts? Or will they end up not passing a budget at all? The governor and other leaders doubt a budget will pass, and are already considering ending the regular session early so they can immediately call a special session to pass taxes to fill in the shortfall. Lawmakers can only raise taxes during a special session in even-numbered calendar years.
"You never know with the Louisiana legislature, each day is a revelation and we'll see what happens," Engster said.
Lawmakers are set to gavel in at noon Monday, with the governor set to give an opening address at 1 p.m.