May 31, 2017 08:32 AM

More than a dozen items were added to the committee's agenda Tuesday evening, pushing back action on HB1 until Thursday

Photo by Robin May

Senate Finance Committee votes on the state budget have been pushed back a day after more than a dozen items were added to Wednesday's committee agenda.

Committee chair Sen. Eric Lafleur told The Independent on Wednesday morning that the new work assigned to his committee means that the committee won't do its expected re-write of HB1 today.

"HB1 will now be heard tomorrow," Lafleur said.

Most of the bills added to the committee's agenda are House bills requiring committee consideration before they can move to Senate floor votes. One item is House Speaker Taylor Barras' resolution that would create a hospital stabilization fund. The resolution would direct the Louisiana Department of Health impose a fee on non-rural hospitals and then use the money to draw down federal Medicaid dollars which would then go back to the hospitals.

A group of non-profits have been granted time to appear before the committee today to discuss the impact of state funding on their operations.

The House approved HB1 on May 4, which both House and Senate leaders agreed was earlier in the session than has been customary. The Senate Finance Committee has conducted two weeks of detailed discussions on the bill and will recommend changes in it to the full Senate. Lafleur had said over the weekend that the discussion and votes would happen on Wednesday with votes in the full Senate coming as soon as Thursday.

With the committee action pushed back by at least a day, the pressure of the session's required adjournment on June 8 — a week from Thursday — has begun to intensify. The slack has been taken out of the process by the work of Senate Finance. If the committee does act on Thursday, consideration by the full Senate could be pushed back into the weekend.

That would leave just a handful of days to try to negotiate a compromise budget bill that could win approval in both chambers before 6 p.m. on Thursday of next week. Whatever budget deal the two chambers strike must also avoid a possible veto by Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has promised to veto HB1 if it remains close to the version of the bill that was approved by the House.


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