Legislative Roundup: Budget, capital spending pass Senate unanimously; UL, Cajundome get added projects—maybe; relaxed concealed carry passes House; Senate OKs Lafayette party panel expansion

Image courtesy Visit Baton Rouge

Senate committees sweeten spending for UL, Cajundome

When HB2, the capital outlay bill by Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, emerged from two Senate committees Wednesday, it had been sweetened by several million dollars for improvement projects at the Cajundome and UL Lafayette.

The Senate passed the amended spending bill 38-0 late Thursday afternoon. It also passed the $38.3 billion budget bill, HB1 by Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, 38-0.

“We’ve worked long and hard on these amendments and to try to balance the needs of all your districts,” said Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, who sponsored Bishop’s spending bill. The Senate Finance Committee, however, tacked on a daunting 206 amendments. Bishop will have first crack at deciding whether the House will concur in the Senate amendments or whether, with exactly two weeks left in the session, a Senate-House conference committee will try to hammer out a compromise version. 

Allain confessed that the Senate version “is still $2.1 million under capacity.”

Among those Senate changes, the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee added $3,870,000 for planning, renovation and construction of UL’s DeClouet Hall and $3,790,000 for Foster Hall.

The Senate Finance Committee approved an amendment adding $800,000 for completion of a security fence around the Cajundome and Convention Center; $542,000 for the ventilation and air quality system in the Cajundome; $475,000 for a passenger and freight elevator in the Cajundome; and $350,000 for an elevator in the Convention Center.

When the $4.9 billion spending bill passed the House by 99-0 on May 13, it already provided $18 million for the Madison Hall renovations; $13.8 million for planning and construction of an engineering classroom building; and $13,350,000 for planning and construction of a health care education and training facility. 

The budget bill includes more than $178 million in discretionary and non-discretionary funding for UL Lafayette for the 2021 fiscal year and almost $192 million for 2022. South Louisiana Community College was appropriated $30.4 million and $33.5 million, respectively.

Relaxed concealed handgun carry bill passes House

The Lafayette House delegation, like the House as a whole, split along party—and racial—lines Thursday when the House approved the controversial bill removing the requirement to take a nine-hour course as a prerequisite to carry a concealed handgun.

SB118, by Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, passed 73-28, with surprisingly little debate. It passed the Senate 27-11, largely along party and racial lines, on April 27. But the House Criminal Justice Committee adopted an amendment requiring the State Police to offer a 60-minute online course in handgun safety, although it did not make it a requirement to carry a handgun. The changes mean the bill will be returned to the Senate, which can concur in the House amendment or reject it.

Black Louisianans were killed by firearms in 2019 at more than double the per capita rate of white people, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Of the Lafayette delegation, Republican Reps. Beau Beaullieu, Stuart Bishop, Jean-Paul Coussan, Julie Emerson and Jonathan Goudeau, all white, voted for it and Democrats Marcus Bryant and Vincent Pierre, both Black, voted against it. 

Only one House Republican, Joseph Stagni of Kenner, voted against it. Six Democrats voted for it: Chad Brown of Plaquemines, Robby Carter of Amite, Travis Johnson of Vidalia, Jeremy LaCombe of Livonia, Francis Thompson of Delhi and Melinda White of Bogalusa.  Johnson was the only Black member voting for it.

Senate passes bill expanding Lafayette party executive committees

The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed HB86 by Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, which permits an expansion of the Democratic and Republican executive committees from 10 to 14 members. The vote was 37-0.

Current law sets the size of parish party executive committees throughout the state at five at-large members and “as many members as there are members of the parish governing authority.” The law makes exceptions for Orleans and Jefferson parishes. 

Beaullieu’s bill would create another exception for Lafayette Parish and expand the number of at-large members from five to nine to offset the lost parish council districts. Before the City-Parish Council split, Lafayette had nine parish districts. After the split, the parish now has five.

Beaullieu’s bill passed the House 101-0 on May 4. His District 48 includes part of Youngsville.