Budget in the wings
Several key issues remain unresolved as the Legislature heads into the final sprint before its June 23 adjournment, not the least of which is the $30 billion state budget bill. The Senate Finance Committee had been scheduled to take up House Bill 1 on Friday, but Chairman Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, said the committee’s staff needed more time to work out amendments to the bill. Among other things, the Senate panel is wrangling over how much to restore from the $122 million in proposed spending cuts made by the House Appropriations Committee, most of which affected health care and education programs. Also awaiting final action from lawmakers are bills limiting the use of cell phones and text-messaging by drivers, raising the salaries paid to legislators and members of the Public Service Commission and providing private-school vouchers to some public-school students in New Orleans. Finally, Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to make a long-awaited announcement about the size and configuration of the new Louisiana State University teaching hospital that’s been proposed for downtown New Orleans, which has been under review since March.
Jindal signs bills
Gov. Bobby Jindal signed another 43 bills into law Friday, including health care and education measures backed by his administration. The administration bills include House Bill 672 by Rep. Don Trahan, R-Lafayette, tweaking the state’s “bill of rights” for classroom teachers and requiring that a copy be posted in every school and administration building, and House Bill 653 by Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, allowing psychiatrists to examine patients using video-conferencing technology under certain circumstances. Other notable bills include House Bill 1311 by Rep. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, authorizing U.S. attorneys, their assistants and investigators to carry concealed weapons, and House Bill 373 by Rep. Chris Hazel, R-Ball, establishing commemorative license plates for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The governor has signed 119 bills from the current lawmaking session, and let 19 others become law without his signature. He has vetoed three bills.