As confirmed by a spokesman for Speaker Schexnayder, the Louisiana legislature passed resolutions to suspend its business until March 31. This comes after a series of increasingly tough restrictions on public gatherings and commercial activity were announced over the weekend, and only days after legislative leadership issued a statement saying they anticipated to carry on with the full session. With Louisiana surging to one of the highest infection rates per capita in the country over the last few days, public officials are now scrambling to contain the spread of the virus.
This puts a hard stop on all bills until legislators come back later this spring. Once they return, they will immediately begin working through a large backlog of legislation, including the yet-to-be-finalized budget. With increased costs due to emergency responses and decreased revenues due to the economic impact of the pandemic and low oil prices, the budget debate will be particularly challenging this year. As a non-fiscal session, legislators will have limited options on increasing revenues, but many will be looking to grab every dollar possible. This makes incentive programs like Quality Jobs, one of few that can be legislated in a non-fiscal session — potential targets.
The legislature might reconvene for an accelerated budget process and then adjourn, with a special session scheduled for later in the year to address remaining business (potentially including economic recovery). Should this be the case, there will almost certainly be a fight for control over the breadth of topics that can be covered. Both the legislature and the governor can call a special session though the legislature never has — and they will likely be approaching the call with differing priorities. A special session can last no more than 30 days, so whatever topics are included will have to move at breakneck speed.
We are working to plan for all scenarios and will keep you up to date on the status of the legislature as it changes.