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The Legislature also enters this regular session not even knowing when it might end. Edwards, Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, and House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, are all interested in adjourning the regular session early in mid-May instead of the scheduled date of June 4.

Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, wants to make fantasy sports league betting legal in Louisiana. That would require a statewide vote to change to the state constitution. State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, is pushing bills to allow legal sports betting and internet gambling.

Barras hasn’t been clear about whether the House would attempt a vote on the budget during the regular session. He might not call for a vote until after the second special session when more revenue would be available.

Just a week after the Louisiana Legislature abandoned a special session early and failed to do anything about the state's fiscal crisis, lawmakers are returning to the state Capitol Monday (March 12) for the 2018 regular lawmaking session, where they will debate everything from state funding and school safety to littering and highway names.

By Julia O'Donoghue, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

frontal view of yellow school bus

State spending

In even numbered years, the Legislature can't consider tax bills during the regular session, which is why special sessions have to be held in 2018. Edwards and the GOP legislative leaders agree that taxes should be renewed or raised to avoid deep budget cuts, but they haven't coalesced around a strategy yet. The question of when that second special session will be -- and whether it will even take place -- will likely hang over debate on all policy matters during the regular session.  

Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, is sponsoring a bill to allow students to have bullet-proof backpacks at schools and on school buses. Current Louisiana law doesn't body armor at school. 

Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles, seated left, speaks with from left to right, Reps. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles; Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe; Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine; and Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, on the House floor, Thursday, March 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, has proposed banning "bump stocks" that convert firearms into automatic weapons, and Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, has also proposed banning the sale of assault rifles to people younger than 21. 

State funding cuts are expected to overwhelm discussions of other policy matters during the regular session. Lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards will have to figure out how to cut $692 million out of the state operating budget that starts July 1 because they failed to raise any revenue in the special session that ended last week to help close that fiscal gap.

The Florida high school shooting has led to a rash of bills on both sides of the gun rights debate in Louisiana, with an eye toward making schools safer. Even after Louisiana had its own mass shooting – in July 2015 when two were killed and nine injured in a Lafayette movie theater -- there wasn't this much interest from lawmakers. 

Other bills include changes to the size of the gambling floor to a limitation on the number of machines. Casinos complain that new slot machines are much larger, so fewer can fit into the restricted space where they currently operate. 


That would allow the Legislature to take another run at voting on taxes and shore up stat revenue in a second special session before the next state budget has to go into effect July 1. Lawmakers could also hold another special session on taxes later in June, but that wouldn't give state agencies and people as much time to react to state funding cuts if they have to be implemented. 

The budget reductions could be painful enough that the Legislature -- after failing to approve tax bills in the special session to avoid deep cuts -- won't be able to get enough votes to approve a reduced state budget either, according to some lawmakers and Edwards.  

There’s also a move to loosen requirements on video poker at truck stop casinos. House Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, has authored legislation that would say trucks stops that have had video poker machines for at least 10 years would no longer have to meet a fuel requirement to keep their gambling operations open. 

For the first time in several years, there is a push to change regulations for several forms of gambling in Louisiana -- including sports betting, video poker, race tracks, truck stops and riverboat casinos. 

At least three House bills have been filed to allow teachers, school administrators and other school employees to carry concealed handguns while they are on campus. One is sponsored by Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, a retired school superintendent who’s closely aligned with state teachers unions.

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