Deal or no deal?

Deal or no deal?

The success or failure of the ongoing special session will likely come down to what happens today on the floor of the Louisiana House.

Number of the Day

1,000+ - The number of people in Louisiana who died of opioid overdose in 2016, which is more than the number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents, homicides, or suicides. (Source: Louisiana Department of Health)

The success or failure of the ongoing special session will likely come down to what happens today on the floor of the Louisiana House. Lawmakers are scheduled to convene at 10 a.m. to debate a series of revenue proposals, including a partial extension the temporary state sales tax and a small income-tax hike on people who itemize their federal returns. Also on the docket are bills that would create a “work and community engagement” program for some Medicaid recipients and a proposal to restrict what the state can spend each year on basic services. Democrats –  led by the Black Caucus – are resisting a deal that relies mainly on regressive sales taxes, while most Republicans are refusing to consider anything that raises income taxes. Legislators were up late negotiating in anticipation of today’s vote, but it is still unclear if there are enough votes to move bills to the Senate. Reporter Julia O’Donoghue of Nola.com | The Times-Picayune explains:

Republicans and Democrats need each other to pass any tax bills out of the Louisiana House. Republicans control a majority of the House seats, but tax bills need a two-thirds of the body vote for approval. Many GOP members won’t vote for any taxes, even those backed by House GOP leadership, so almost all Democrats usually have to back a tax bill for it to get off the House floor. That gives the Democrats, especially the House Black Caucus that makes up the bulk of the Democratic Caucus, an unusual amount of leverage in tax negotiations.

The negotiations are further complicated by indications that House Speaker Taylor Barras can’t make promises for many of his Republican colleagues. It remains unknown where Barras draws the line for dissenting Republicans, or if he is even willing to exercise that power of the office. Lanny Keller, columnist at The Advocate, writes:

When you negotiate with Barras, how many members of the House does he represent? Experience shows it’s not the 61 Republicans, because his caucus is all over the map on key issues. The price of his being elected in 2016 was stacking key “money” committees, Appropriations and Ways and Means, with anti-tax hard-liners. Outside pressure groups constantly hector members to vote against taxes, even if only to replace tax revenues that are to expire. In a critical series of votes last year, the House’s majority — Democrats and a dozen or so Republicans — rebuked Barras and, explicitly, Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, of Metairie.

Meanwhile, the governor and some legislators are concerned about a provision of the sales tax bill that would make it expire in 2021. Julia O’Donoghue spoke to members about the measure earlier this week:

In an interview Monday, House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, said the sales tax proposal was made temporary in part to gain the support of House members of the Legislative Black Caucus, who are all Democrats, Barras said. … Yet the Black Caucus, like the governor, said making the sales tax proposal temporary makes the legislation worse in the eyes of its members. We didn’t come into session to pass any temporary measures. We did that two or three years ago,” said Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe.

Rural infrastructure in the regular session

Legislators have until 5 p.m. today to submit their bill-draft requests for the regular legislative session that begins on March 12. Some legislators are hoping to use their power to improve broadband internet access and service in rural areas. Paul Braun of the LSU Manship School News Service reports:

Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, said broadband service is “virtually non-existent” in his district, and that improving that infrastructure is a critical step to revitalizing rural communities. “People are not going to be able to meet the demands of the future,” Thompson said. “We can’t expect economic development in the area if we don’t have good connectivity.” He said the state has fallen behind in providing rural broadband since it lost an $80 million federal grant in 2011. He added that with the state’s budget crisis, federal funds would a crucial component of any infrastructure improvement programs.

Bipartisan opioid funding bill introduced

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy is leading a bipartisan effort to increase federal funding for opioid addiction prevention and recovery. The legislation filed Monday increases resources for states working to ensure access to substance abuse treatment while making reforms to prescription monitoring and authorizing physician assistants and nurse practitioners, who are often the primary care providers in high-volume clinics, to prescribe buprenorphine, a popular opioid addiction treatment medication. Maria Clark of Nola.com | The Times-Picayune writes:

The act also waives the limit on the number of patients a doctor can treat with buprenorphine. The current cap is 100 patients per physician. It also creates a national standard for recovery residences to ensure people in long-term recovery programs can access quality housing. The recent budget deal authorizes $6 billion in additional resources for the fiscal year 2018- 2019 for programs that expand treatment for pregnant and postpartum women recovering from opioid addiction, first responder training and access to naloxone as well as funds towards building a national infrastructure for recovery support services.

Number of the Day

1,000+ – The number of people in Louisiana who died of opioid overdose in 2016, which is more than the number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents, homicides, or suicides. (Source: Louisiana Department of Health)