GOP leaders start putting forth their ideas today

Gov. John Bel Edwards sits with his wife, Donna Edwards, left, and his health secretary, Rebekah Gee, ahead of his remarks to the Senate Finance Committee on Sunday, April 8, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La. Edwards told the committee that budget cuts on July 1 would be devastating to services if lawmakers don’t agree to replace some of the state’s expiring temporary taxes. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

Melinda Deslatte

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The public and all legislators are expected to get an idea today of how Republican leaders in the state House plan to balance the fiscal year 2018-19 budget that now faces a $648 million shortfall. Members of the House Appropriations Committee will begin making decisions about seven spending bills, including House Bill 1, the budget measure.

Reps. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie and committee chairman, and Lance Harris, R-Alexandria and chairman of the GOP House delegation, have said they believe the budget can be balanced with reductions. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to hold a special session right after the regular session to raise sufficient revenues and make budget cuts to deal with the deficit.

The budget proposal Edwards gave lawmakers had reductions to the TOPS scholarship program, private hospitals that took over the charity hospital system and other health care services.

The full House this week will debate bills dealing with teacher rights, TOPS and wildlife fees. Senators will debate measures on eyewitness testimony, the death penalty, minimum wages and election recalls.

Senators will also have to start making decisions about controversial bills they put back on the calendar. They deal with changes in gambling laws, property tax exemptions, legislative sessions, weapons sales and retirement ages for judges.

The teacher rights bills that stirred considerable House debate last week are scheduled to come up again Monday and Tuesday. House Bill 343 up today deals with the right to be free from undue pressure from school system employees and school board members. H.B. 344 on Tuesday gives teachers the right to implement curriculum and instructional changes aligned to current state standards.

The TOPS bills are also scheduled for Tuesday. H.B. 413 creates the TOPS Transfer Award. It is designed for students who start at a community college and then attend a four-year institution. H.B. 414 raises the grade point average standards based on student hours completed.

The House on Tuesday will also decide the fate of H.B. 265 that gives felons on probation and parole the right to vote after a five-year trial period following their incarceration.

Restructuring of the hunting and fishing license system by the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is to be debated Wednesday. H.B. 687 outlines the present and proposed license costs. The resident basic fishing license, for example, would go from $9.50 to $13.50.

Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, has a riverboat gambling bill he returned to the calendar that will have to be heard soon in order to make it through the entire legislative process. Senate Bill 316 would allow the state’s 15 riverboat casinos to move to land no more than 1,200 feet from their current locations. It also changes the way gaming machine space is handled.

S.B. 38 sets up procedures that would have to be followed when using eyewitness testimony in court cases. The legislation is an attempt to prevent eyewitness testimony that incorrectly sends someone to prison.

The death penalty, minimum wage and weapons sales bills that haven’t fared well in committees may not come up. S.B. 457 adds requirements for persons who file election recall petitions

S.B. 148 is a proposed constitutional amendment changing the renewal period of industrial property tax exemptions from five to three years and limits the exemption to 80 percent of assessed evaluation.

Lawmakers could file five bills that are not within the subject matter limitations in regular sessions in even-numbered year under provisions of S.B. 242. A similar measure failed to pass in the House. The goal is to allow tax measures to be considered that are now prohibited.

Judges would no longer be forced to retire at age 70 under provisions of S.B. 278 that failed to pass on its first try in the Senate.

The House Ways and Means Committee Monday will begin debating H.B. 2 and H.B. 3, the state’s capital outlay construction bills and H.B. 3, an accompanying bond act.

The House Commerce Committee will hear H.B. 422 that gives public universities twice as many funds from State Licensing Board fees as community colleges.

The House Education Committee will hear two more TOPS bills Tuesday. H.B. 399 says when funding is insufficient reducing or eliminating the awards would be based on a student’s academic and financial criteria and Performance and Honors award stipends would be eliminated. S.B. 380 creates a TOPS Second Chance Award with a lower 17 ACTS score and other criteria.

The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice will hear nine firearms bills Wednesday dealing with assault weapons, exemptions, the importing of certain devices, concealed weapons and illegally purchasing firearms.

Reps. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie and Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, have said they believe the budget can be balanced with reductions. 

 

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