Special session begins, 70 items to consider

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Stacey Tinsley | Bossier Press-Tribune

Louisiana legislators returned to the capitol Monday, Sept. 28 to begin a 30-day special session, focused on a number of issues from the coronavirus outbreak to a potential business tax increase.

There was little action on Monday besides the procedural introduction and committee assignment of bills.

The month-long special session was called by lawmakers without consultation from Gov. John Bel Edwards on the 70-item agenda.

The 70-item agenda includes everything from Hurricane Laura response and changes to coronavirus regulations to budget discussions and issues specific to individual parishes.

Nearly 350,000 Louisianans still remain without a job because of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the economy. The state’s $1.1 billion savings account for unemployment insurance payments is expected to run out of money during the first week of October.

If the account balance remains below $100 million, the state will have to borrow money from the federal government to insure unemployed Louisianans still receive payments. That would trigger an automatic tax increase on businesses while reducing the state’s maximum weekly unemployment payment to $221, the nation’s lowest rate.

Lawmakers also want more say in how emergencies are declared and handled. Under current law, the governor can create and enforce laws, such as the mask mandate, without legislative approval during a declared emergency.

Republicans say the framers of Louisiana’s constitution gave that near-complete authority to the governor without imagining an emergency situation that’d last, in earnest, for more than a year.