”What makes this special session different is that we’ve reached the end of the road,” Gov. John Bel Edwards told a capacity crowd today in Lafayette’s Earl K. Long Gym. “This is it.”
The governor’s speech kicked off the second special session of the year, which will last for 14 days and be largely confined to grueling tax debates before adjourning on or before June 4.
But is it really the “end of the road,” as Edwards put it in his session-opening address? In hushed tones, lawmakers are predicting that adjournment could be followed by the convening of yet another special session.
One senator said privately that he warned his family that he could be in Baton Rouge beyond June 4 and a couple representatives claim there are early signs of a stalemate.
Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, is one of many lawmakers who are apprehensive about what the next couple weeks could bring, especially if the House restarts the budget process. (Legislators failed to pass a budget during the regular session that adjourned last week.)
“I’m not saying it’s impossible, it’s just not looking very promising,” Miguez said. Another special session after this one, he said, “wouldn’t surprise me.”
Then there’s Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville, who is reluctantly bracing for a third special session.
“That would be embarrassing,” Hollis said.
As has been the case in other sessions this term, ideological divides are among the factors that could send the coming budget and tax debates into a tailspin.
“We definitely could fix this problem in a very pragmatic way. Quickly,” said Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner. “But I’m concerned there’s a huge expectation gap between what the Republicans think is possible and what the Democrats think is possible. If we’re not all on the same page, we might have to go into another session.”
Legislative Democrats, like the governor, sound more optimistic about finding a compromise, but only if changes to the state sales tax structure are paired with Democrat-backed provisions, like alterations to the corporate income tax or business utility tax.
The Senate, meanwhile, returns to its sit-and-wait position, since the budget and most all tax bills must originate in the lower chamber. “The ball’s in the court of the House,” said Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin.