Debate begins on second day of special session

Debate begins on second day of special session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - On the second day of the special legislative session, lawmakers began debating concept bills that could close the $648 million budget hole.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne laid out a plan for the session Wednesday morning, but some lawmakers say they doubt they can accomplish all of the goals spelled out by the Edwards administration.

The House Committee on Ways and Means set the tone for debate, but most of the discussion centered on past sessions.

"I cannot believe that we are sitting here talking about this and have been for so long. I mean, it's frustrating, and we're going to sit here and lob grenades probably for another damn two weeks," said Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads.

Many Republican lawmakers expressed frustration about Governor John Bel Edwards' decision to veto the regular session's state operating budget.

"Some folks kind of changed their minds a little bit, and it's going to take a little bit of coaxing to get those minds changed back." said Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge. "At least knew where we were starting off."

Some legislators asked Dardenne if Edwards would veto a budget passed by the legislature if lawmakers could not raise all $648 million. Dardenne said he could not speak to the governor's intentions. "I'm just reading the tea leaves through the legislature," said Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles. "I don't see a path to $648 million. I think we had a better opportunity in the first special than we do now."

Baton Rouge Rep. Barry Ivey lamented the legislature's inability to pass bipartisan task force tax recommendations in 2017. "I believe we're creating more problems down the road by solving a budget hole instead of trying to solve the structural issues that keep us from being competitive," Ivey said.

The committee did not vote on any bills so lawmakers could familiarize themselves with the measures filed Tuesday night. Ways and Means members say they expect to begin voting Thursday.

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