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Battles left to fight on final day of session

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As the seconds tick away on the last day of the 2014 Legislative Session today, local legislators are toiling away to solve the most vital legislation they will decide on this year.

The state’s budget, House Bill 1, passed Friday morning, but the capital outlay budget, House Bill 2, was rejected and went to conference committee.

“They increased projects by $400 million and we don’t have that money. So there’s going to have to be some realignment,” said Representative Henry Burns, R-Haughton. “We won’t leave without doing it. It’s not uncommon to do this when it comes to budgeting.”

“As the session comes to an end, it will end on fights over budget items, capital outlay projects, and funding of primary government functions,” said Representative Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City.

Senator Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, said now is the time when they have to be “on (their) toes.”

Thompson agreed, saying tensions are high.

“We have to be diligent to get legislation through the process. As this session concludes we will continue to fight for responsible government and funding for education, health care and supporting law enforcement. Our roads and bridges need improvement and we have to find ways to curtail the spiraling cost of attending college and gaining job skills,” Thompson said.

The committee met Sunday to try and address HB 2. They have until 6 p.m. today to resolve what is, arguably, the second most important piece of yearly legislation for the state.

The Louisiana Senate added money into the proposed $24.6 billion state budget, HB 1, to fund desirable programs like a north Louisiana pharmacy school and services with disabilities.

The bill includes increases for services to help the disabled, higher education and public schools. State workers will get a pay raise, as will state troopers.

The Senate Finance Committee originally took out the funding for disability services before adding it back by the time it was approved on the Senate floor last Wednesday.

“The areas we established to help military defense got restored. With three of the top five employers in our state being military, it’s very important to show that we trying to assist supporting our men and women in uniform,” said Burns.

Sunday, legislators voted to delay the effects of the state’s shift to Common Core State Standards and add privacy protections for student data, resolving one of the more controversial issues of the three-month-old session.

According to law, the session must end by 6 p.m. today.