capitol access

Paul Braun / WRKF

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced a measure Wednesday that would undercut the statewide stay-at-home order Gov. John Bel Edwards put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Louisiana lawmakers considered a wide range of bills in the first full day of committee hearings since they returned to the capitol.

Here's what stood out.

Gov. John Bel Edwards debuted a $32 billion state budget proposal Friday, but ongoing disputes between the administration and Republican lawmakers over how much money the state has to spend looms large over the start of this year’s negotiations.

Tort reform, was a huge issue in last year's elections, and is a key policy goal Republicans now that they have strengthened their majorities in the Louisiana Legislature. 

The GOP pitches tort reform as a silver bullet to reduce Louisiana's car insurance rates-- the second highest in the nation. Critics say it wouldn't.

The debate is playing out as a political tug-of-war between trial lawyers and the business lobby, two of the state's most influential special interests.

Last week, the 72nd Louisiana Legislature convened for the first time, electing new leaders in a brief organizational session.

After months of backroom negotiations, they settled on Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, for Speaker of the House and Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, as Senate President.

Both positions were hotly contested behind closed doors, but things boiled over in the Speaker's race.

Democrat John Bel Edwards officially began his second term as Louisiana Governor Monday, taking his oath of office on the Capitol steps.

A drizzling rain fell over the crowd for much of the morning. Still, hundreds filled the capitol lawn to witness the ceremony. 

The Louisiana Legislature is days away from the start of a new term. Monday morning, lawmakers will gavel in the 2020 Organizational Session.

Once, everyone is sworn in, lawmakers will set committees and, most notably, elect new leaders.

Campaigns for Speaker of the House and Senate President are fought outside of the public eye and have been underway for months.

Today, we're taking a look back at the year in Louisiana politics.

In 2019, we saw some things change and others stay the same.

Democrat John Bel Edwards earned another four years in the governor's mansion, but it was a lonely victory. Republicans won every other statewide race and have unprecedented control in the House and Senate.

And there were some changes on this program as well. Wallis Watkins has left Capitol Access, but she was kind enough to come back and talk through some of the big stories of 2019.

Governor John Bel Edwards held his traditional year-end press conference last week. It marked not only the end of 2019, but the end of his first term.

His core message?

“Our state is operating from a position of strength, not the position of weakness where we were four years ago,” Edwards said.

The Democratic governor touted budget stability, GDP growth, Medicaid expansion-- all familiar talking points from the campaign trail.

And his plans for 2020 sounded awfully familiar too.

For the second straight year, Republican lawmakers have refused to accept state economists’ forecast of expected revenue in the upcoming fiscal year, a crucial benchmark for crafting the state budget.

The partisan stand-off over the budget could also delay funding for several projects in Louisiana, including the reopening of the Algiers Ferry, coastal restoration in Plaquemines Parish and payments associated with the Harrah’s Casino contract.

In Thursday’s meeting, Representative Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), on behalf of House Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia), voted down updated forecasts presented by the Legislative Fiscal Office and pision of Administration.

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