Capitol Views: Louisiana special session becomes a salvage operation

    With little to no assurances that the state House will send the special session’s key tax bills across Memorial Hall to the Senate, lawmakers turned their attention today to lower-hanging policy fruit. The bills that have been passed by representatives over the last few hours represent a surge of momentum that hasn’t been seen previously in this session, but it doesn’t yet add up to the compromise Gov. John Bel Edwards and lawmakers are hoping for to cover a nearly $1 billion budget hole.

    Complicating matters is the decision by House Republicans to link the session’s centerpiece sales tax bill to conservative-backed spending and Medicaid reforms—via an amendment to the sales tax measure. Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, the chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, called the all-or-nothing amendment (if one bill fails, they all fail) “egregious and offensive” in a tweet earlier today, adding the it “puts conditions on revenue.”

    The biggest vote of the day, so far, came when lawmakers cleared the way for House Bill 23 by Rep. Stephen Dwight to be reconsidered. It contains language expanding the state sales tax structure, and it also includes the all-or-nothing amendment. It’s not known when or if representatives will take up the legislation. That decision rests largely with how lawmakers react to House Bill 8 by Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, which would reduce the amount of federal itemized deductions residents can deduct from state income taxes. It’s a proposal favored by the Black Caucus, which could get behind Dwight’s HB 23 if Leger’s HB 8 passes. But there are no guarantees.

    Other bills, meanwhile, were passed by the House this morning and they now head to the Senate, including:

    • HB 3 by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, which would require able-bodied Medicaid recipients work or volunteer to keep their eligibility, although there is some wiggle room in terms of how strongly it would be enforced.
    • HB 2 by Rep. Tony Bacala, which aims to combat Medicaid fraud by allowing the legislative auditor access to recipient tax returns.
    • HB 27 by Rep. Pat Smith, which would implement a 60-cent-per-year tax for accessibility programs for the deaf.
    • HB 10 by Rep. Ted James, which would increase federal income tax liability by the amount someone’s federal income tax was lowered during 2016 or 2017 after claiming the federal standard or itemized deduction for certain net disaster losses. It’s supposed to help flood victims from the 2016 March and August floods.

    Jeremy Alford will publish a daily update throughout the legislative special session on Daily Report PM. Alford reports on Louisiana politics at Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook. He can be reached at

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