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"Historic" special legislative session ends

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Posted at 11:29 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 08:54:11-04

A special session to address pandemic relief and the state budget is now over.

The $34 billion spending plan was approved anonymously by the House and Senate just about an hour before the end of the special session.

This is the second time in Louisiana history that lawmakers called themselves into session.

The new budget expands and extends business tax credits, exemptions and incentive programs.
Republican lawmakers pitched the bills as Coronavirus recovery measures. Those tax cuts will cost the state and estimated $230 million in tax revenue over the next five years.

Lawmakers and Governor Edwards called the session "historic," saying a lot of good work was done, but acknowledging that there is still more to be accomplished.

Governor Edwards said, "I actually felt like overall, the communication between myself, my staff and the speaker and the president and other legislators was really good."

Among the issues, the House and Senate both approved a bill designed to limit lawsuits against car insurance companies in the hopes that it will lower insurance rates.

Representative John Stefanski of Crowley said, "This is step one over the next four years of creating a better atmosphere, a more business friendly atmosphere, especially in the area of torts."

The legislature set aside up to $300 million in federal aid for small business grants in the regular session and agreed to millions of dollars in business tax cuts in the special session.

"As you know, it's always a balancing act. Tax breaks we believe are used to incentive business which will bring our economy back. It will provide jobs and revenue for the government to operate," said Senator Page Cortez of Lafayette.

Governor Edwards said, "I think when we get into the October time frame, it will be time to look at revenue, look at our economy to see relative to the forecast and if any revisions need to be made."
Also passed, a one time $250 "hazard payment" to health care workers and other front line employees amid COVID-19.

Representative Blake Miguez of New Iberia said, "Republicans and democrats stood together to show our appreciation not only to police officers, but EMT workers and other essential workers."

Though the budget did win final approval, nearly $60 million planned for state worker pay raises was stripped; a move the Governor opposed.

"We set aside more money than we ever have in the rainy day fund so we can possibly address further economic issues in October when we look at a mid-year point for our fiscal budget," said Representative Jean-Paul Coussan of Lafayette.

Governor Edwards expects another special session later this fall depending on further impacts on the economy from the pandemic.

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