Current Legislative Activity
Please see below and click here for this week’s legislative update and your bill track.
On Monday the House Appropriations Committee voted 17-6 to approve the state budget to send it to the House floor for discussion on Thursday. On Thursday after five hours of discussion and several amendments, the House voted to approve the budget 55-47 sending it to the Senate. But this two-sentence paragraph has much more behind it.
As the budget left the Appropriations committee, it fully funded the state’s popular college tuition scholarship program (the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, or TOPS) and made deep cuts to healthcare and the state’s safety net hospitals. This posture of the budget would not last long however as many representatives and senators expressed concern about the state’s healthcare services bearing the brunt of the $684 million in cuts to the state budget.
On the floor the budget was amended to reduce the TOPS funding to 80% placing the remainder in healthcare services and safety net hospitals. In total, the Louisiana Department of Health’s budget remains cut by about $570 million.
I write about TOPS and healthcare as these are the two areas that suffer the most in Louisiana when it comes to the state saddling budget deficits.
In the news media I am sure you have seen the articles and comments coming from members of the legislature posturing that this budget is the first responsible step to reining in the state’s spending or how the budget passed by the House Republicans is detrimental to the state. The Governor has stated that the budget in its current form “is not worth the paper it’s printed on” and Senate President John Alario (R – Westwego) has stated that his members cannot pass a budget that resembles what the House sent over, stating “I don’t know how you solve a [$1 billion] problem with $348 million,” … “There are too many holes that could harm too many people.”
However, on a larger scale this plays into what may be coming next. There are still many bills waiting to go finish their legislative journey, with some bills even being revenue positive which are on the House Appropriations committee agenda for next week, so ending the regular session early is still to be determined but with the comments of President Alario leaning toward supporting a second special, that may be exactly where we are headed.
There is still plenty of time during the regular for the Senate to consider the budget but ending early will be left up to the decision of the Senate. As we watch what is happening at the legislature the Senate could very well choose not to pass the budget, force the second special, and work with the House and Governor to raise the additional revenue the state needs to adequately fund itself at current spending levels.
Currently the Governor wants to call the second special beginning May 15th, right about when the Revenue Estimating Conference will meet again to adjust the state’s income forecast. Speaker of the House, Rep. Taylor Barras (R – New Iberia), has stated if there were to be a second special, he believes it should be called three days later on the 18th. All will be dependent on the pace the legislature moves the rest of their legislation, but we have a good idea.
As always should you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
Throughout the year, LSNA networks with stakeholders, partners, and elected leaders to ensure our voice is heard at the policy table. LSNA engages the services of the Southern Strategy Group in Baton Rouge.
LSNA will take positions on issues related to nursing and the health of Louisiana’s citizens. Check back here for position statements as they are developed. All position statements will be shared here.