A Thibodaux legislator said Thursday he is crafting a special session agenda to ease legislators’ concerns about what they would accomplish by taking the unusual step of calling themselves to the State Capitol.
State Rep. Dee Richard, who does not have a party affiliation, acknowledged he is encountering uncertainty as he leads the charge to hold a November session to review Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent state budget decisions. He wants details on how the public will be affected by the budget cuts.
Legislators said they are concerned about the cost of holding a session and confused about what they would achieve.
Richard said he believes he has the initial support he needs to at least poll legislators on whether to gather at the State Capitol months ahead of the regular session.
The process starts with at least 13 senators and 35 representatives submitting a petition declaring a need for a special session. The petition then is mailed to each legislator for approval. A majority must return the petition in order for the session to be held.
“We’re going to get 35. From there, we’ll see what happens,” Richard said.
By drafting a call, Richard said he hopes to tailor an agenda that ensures taxpayer money would not be wasted. He said he hopes to get the call down to two or three items. He would not discuss what those items might include.
Special sessions are limited in scope. Legislators cannot stray beyond the confines of the call. In the past, they typically have only called themselves into session to redraw voting district lines.
State Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, said he would support a special session if he cannot get answers to questions about the impact of health care spending cuts on services.
The Jindal administration recently axed $320 million from LSU’s 10-hospital system, which provides health care to many poor and uninsured people. Two LSU hospitals are in Nevers’ district.
The LSU Board of Supervisors, which is largely controlled by the governor, initially ordered cuts of 34.5 percent, coming just short of needing to involve legislators in the decisions on reductions.
“The major issue with me is how will we provide health care services to the populations with the cuts we’re facing. Where will they receive those services? How will many of them be transported to those services?” Nevers questioned.
He said he represents a rural district in which transportation is a concern.
Other legislators said they understand the frustration shared by Richard and Nevers. However, they said they are reluctant to take the step of holding a special session.
State Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette, said she would only embrace a special session if it were necessary to kick start the recovery from Hurricane Isaac.
She said it would have to be an emergency need and not just something tossed into a session call that includes other issues.
Champagne said budget information can be gathered without calling legislators to the State Capitol and spending taxpayer dollars.
“I can’t justify spending $80,000 plus dollars a day in a special session,” she said. “I don’t know what the plan is.”
Richard met last weekend with more than a dozen legislators at the State Capitol to discuss his quest for a special session.
He said legislators want to see the special session call before deciding which way to vote on a session.
State Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, said he would have to see a good plan that addresses issues with good solutions.
“I understand his frustration, wanting the information that he needs,” he said, referring to Richard. “All of us are kind of in that same boat.”