April 22, 2016
Falconer bills take flight
Brand new state Rep. Reid Falconer, R-Mandeville, who is an architect and developer, authored two bills relevant to the architecture community. Those bills are HB 472, which deals with the Louisiana Architecture Education and Research Fund, and HB 532, which deals with the powers and authority of the Louisiana State Board of Architectural Examiners. Both bills made it out of House Commerce and passed off the House floor this past week. Thanks to Rep. Falconer for rapidly becoming one of AIA-LA’s newest champions and strong, positive voice for architecture in the legislature.
Session at a snail’s pace
Week six of the regular session wrapped up on April 22nd and looming ominously behind fights involving issues like motorcycle helmets and pastor protection is the notion that a large budget deficit remains. Not a lot of major matters are getting much attention this session—a sign that legislator fatigue appears to be setting in.
Second Special Session?
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced recently that he’s eyeing a second special session to begin June 7th, which is the day after the current regular session must adjourn sine die. Many legislators – particularly a large contingent of House Republicans – have said they prefer a fall special session (if one is even necessary). One of the primary reasons legislators prefer a later session date is to make sure tax changes from both last year’s regular session and this year’s earlier special session do not result in considerably more revenue than anticipated. Another reason many freshman and veteran legislators don’t want to immediately go into another special session is because they have been in Baton Rouge since January.
Gov. Edwards says he still needs around $750 million to balance the FY 16-17 budget, which becomes effective July 1st. Gov. Edwards has said there will be no more sales tax increases. Thus, new revenue can only occur via reductions to tax exemptions, rebates, credits or refunds. Many Republicans prefer cutting the budget. We will know soon which direction leadership starts taking.
News reports this week indicated that Speaker of the House Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, and the President of the Senate John Alario, R-Westwego, have been meeting and discussing the possibility of adjourning early on or about May 30th or 31st. The Senate President said they would be ready, but Speaker Barras said that he was not certain because Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie (Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee) has set May 12th as the date to debate HB 1 (the budget) on the House floor. Rep. Henry said this date works as long as the Revenue Estimating Conference meets by May 12th to certify the officially anticipated revenues. Getting HB 1 to the Senate any later than May 12th would barely give the Senate time to work over the budget and adjourn by May 31st. Whether the $750 million shortfall is addressed via cuts during the regular session or if another special session gets called sooner than later is one of the front-burner issues of this current session. That picture will clear up within the next two weeks.
To make things more interesting (and complicated) state Treasurer John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, is publicly proclaiming that the state doesn’t need a second special session. Kennedy called discussions of possible closures and cuts of universities and charity hospitals “scare tactics.” He says that, considering the estimated $1.3 billion in taxes raised in the special session earlier this year and the $800 million raised last spring, the state now has more money than it has had since 2007-2008, which is when the state budget benefitted heavily from billions of federal recovery dollars and hurricane reconstruction spending. As a reminder, Treasurer Kennedy is running for U.S. Senate to fill the seat of retiring Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie.