BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Lawmakers returned to the capitol Monday, Sept. 28 to begin a 30-day special session, aiming to spare Louisiana from a looming tax increase and give themselves more say in how the state reopens its economy.
Roughly 350,000 Louisianans remain jobless because of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the economy. The state’s $1.1 billion savings account for unemployment insurance payments is expected to run out of money during the first week of October.
If the account balance remains below $100 million, the state will have to borrow money from the federal government to ensure unemployed Louisianans still receive payments. The move would trigger an automatic tax increase on businesses while reducing the state’s maximum weekly unemployment payment to $221, the nation’s lowest rate.
Lawmakers can buy themselves some time by shifting money into the account, but a long-term solution will almost certainly require congressional help.
“The only reason our economies haven’t suffered more is because we had millions in federal aid,” Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, said. “We’re going to need that money.”
Lawmakers also want more say in how emergencies are declared and handled. Under current law, the governor can create and enforce laws, such as the mask mandate, without legislative approval during a declared emergency.
Republicans say the framers of Louisiana’s constitution gave that near-complete authority to the governor without imagining an emergency situation that’d last, in earnest, for more than a year.
“We need to bring a balance,” Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, said. “There’s a role the executive branch has, and there’s a role the legislative branch has in this process. I believe the legislative branch has been left out.”
Lawmakers will debate more 70 topics throughout the session, which ends in late October.
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