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Not business as usual in Louisiana legislature.

It's won't be business as usual in Louisiana when the Legislature opens its 1994 session in April--instead of March as in previous years--and when lawmakers are restricted to discussion of fiscal topics.

A constitutional amendment approved by 66 percent of the state's voters Oct. 16 shortens legislative sessions to 30 days in even-numbered years and restricts debate to fiscal matters.

General session topics are to be debated in odd-numbered years during a 60-day session that opens the last Monday of March. No taxes may be considered in odd-numbered years.

"Generally, I believe there is going to be an improvement of the process," House Clerk Butch Speer said. "But I think there might be some adjustment problems in the short term because of the essentially biennial general sessions." Prior to the amendment, the Legislature met annually in 60-day sessions and there were no restrictions on the types of bills that were filed, except a ban on raising taxes in odd-numbered years.

General sessions every other year are going to take quite an adjustment on the part of some constituents, who are used to their lawmakers considering issues of importance to them each year.

"I think the legislators were really interested in focusing on fiscal matters in even-numbered years when they considered the amendment in the House and Senate," notes Anne Dunn, coordinator of the Governmental Affairs Research Division, "but I think we're going to see a lot of issues raised in an even-numbered year that we've traditionally dealt with year in and year out, and we aren't going to be able to deal with them until the next year unless a special session is called." The amendment continues to allow the Legislature or the governor to call special sessions when needed.

Prefiling of all bills on the Friday before the first day of the regular session will now be required. The constitutional change limits each legislator to five bills that can be filed after the session convenes and requires that the final days of the session be devoted to settling differences between the House and Senate.

Dunn said this might pose a hardship for local governments since their bills must be advertised for 30 days before consideration by the Legislature. "Usually, those bills have been introduced late in the session because of the advertising requirement," she explained. "Now, there is no provision for allowing late bills, and I think it's going to take awhile for the local government officials to get used to that."

Voters also approved four other amendments in the fall election that addressed ways of managing Louisiana's indebtedness.
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Title Annotation:On First Reading; constitutional amendment reduces legislative sessions and restricts debate to fiscal matters
Publication:State Legislatures
Date:Jan 1, 1994
Words:430
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