After convening three different times this year, the Louisiana Legislature isn’t scheduled to go into another lawmaking session until March 12, 2018.
That’s when the House and Senate will begin their annual regular session — just like the one that was concluded in early June.
Legislators, however, may have to gavel in sooner than that to address a $1.2 billion shortfall for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has publicly discussed releasing a call for what will be the fifth special session of this term, but he has offered no concrete timelines or certainties. Legislative leaders, meanwhile, believe it could be called as soon as January.
The problem for Edwards is that he needs the House and Senate to support the creation of new revenue, which his administration has found to be challenging at best over the past two years, particularly in the House.
Perhaps that’s why Edwards has been telling reporters lately that he may just skip another special session, thus allowing drastic budget reductions to take hold, if the House doesn’t start to coalesce around a revenue plan.
The bottleneck in the legislative process, specifically for tax hikes, resides in the lower chamber, where conservative lawmakers have so far refused to approve permanent revenue-raising measures.
Complicating matters is the fact that the only opportunity state government will have to tinker with revenue bills in 2018 is via a special session. By law only non-fiscal regular sessions can be held in even-numbered years.
If the governor does plan to trigger a special session next year, it’s unclear what would be in his call, or agenda.
It’s worth noting that Edwards never did completely remove from the policy table the recommendations generated by the Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy. His team is said to be taking another long, hard look at its findings.