Mar 29, 2010 12:33 PM by Katie Durio
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana lawmakers begin their annual
regular session Monday, grappling with a set of deep budget
problems and nearly 2,000 pieces of legislation that propose
everything from college tuition increases and looser gun
restrictions to bans on energy drink sales to youngsters and red
The session begins at noon. Gov. Bobby Jindal will outline his
vision for balancing the budget when he speaks to a joint session
of the House and Senate in the afternoon.
The mood is more somber than in past years, as Louisiana's
financial difficulties overshadow other debates and dampen the
celebratory atmosphere that often accompanies the opening day of a
Jindal proposed a mix of one-time funding and cuts to balance
next year's $24.2 billion budget, but disagreements have already
emerged between the House and Senate about how much should be cut
and how much state trust funds should be tapped to fill gaps.
The budget troubles have worsened since Jindal offered his
spending recommendations for the 2010-11 fiscal year that begins
July 1. A deficit of up to $400 million is projected for the
remaining three months of the current fiscal year, and lawmakers
will have to rebalance this year's budget before they can devise a
final plan for next year.
The legislative session runs until June 21.
One of this session's most heated disputes is expected to center
on a bill by Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, that attempts to nullify
the federal health care overhaul, arguing the congressional
legislation is unconstitutional.
Tea party groups in the state have made Crowe's bill one of
their top priorities for passage in the session, while the
Legislature's black caucus is vowing to fight it.