THE FORUM: That’s A Wrap

A Recap of the 2022 Legislative Session

June 14, 2022

That’s a Wrap

The Louisiana Legislature, a bicameral body that is comprised of 105 members of the House of Representatives and 39 members of the State Senate, convenes each spring to conduct their legislative responsibilities, like formulating the state’s operating budget and passing laws that shape Louisiana’s political landscape.

Members gaveled in on March 14th and adjourned sine die from the 2022 Regular Legislative Session on June 6th a few minutes before their 6:00 p.m. deadline. After parsing a total of 2,300 legislative instruments over the course of 12 weeks, those that passed the legislative process are now in the hands of Governor John Bel Edwards. To date, the Governor has signed 288 bills into law and enacted his veto authority on four bills and line-items in the State Budget. The Governor has fourteen days left to enact veto authority on any additional bills.

National politics and public pressures were two significant contributors to the vexed rhythm that influenced the House and Senate—creating contention among the bodies both internally and against one another. The visible tension persisted up until the final moments prior to adjournment where controversial bills from House members involving guns and vaccines were not moved from the Senate calendar—even with a majority vote from the House to approve and urge the Senate to hear the remaining bills. A bill that mirrored Texas’ ‘Constitutional Carry’ gun laws (and was later heavily amended by the Senate) was one of those instruments left on the table.

Money was no issue this year with a budget surplus of $700 million rolling over from the previous fiscal year, an uptick in the state’s sales tax collection, and significant support from federal pandemic and hurricane relief packages. The Legislature passed the largest operating budget in state history—$39.8 billion—early and within a time frame that allowed legislators to review the Governor’s line-item vetoes before sine die. Highlights in the overall spending plan include Louisiana’s largest investment in early childhood education at $84 million, $148 million in pay increases for K-12 educators, a historic $159 million boost to higher education operations, a $120 million investment in coastal projects, $500 million toward two major bridge projects in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, a $500 million deposit into the covid-depleted Unemployment Trust Fund, $450 million to fund additional state-wide water and sewerage projects, and $101 million in funding for various one-time projects. The total spending plan—including judicial, legislative, and other ancillary budget bills—is $47 billion.

Just hours before members returned to their respective districts, a federal judge ruled the newly drawn congressional maps—that were vetoed by Governor Edwards after the February Redistricting Session and subsequently overridden by the Legislature in a March veto-override session—were unconstitutional and ordered that the six-district map must be redrawn with a second majority-Black district by June 20th. The Legislature took a short break and will return tomorrow at noon for a five-day Special Session to draw new congressional boundaries.

What’s Next?

With several of the Governor’s anticipated vetoes off the table, lawmakers will wait on the remainder of Edwards’ decisions before determining if a third veto-override session will happen in July. Next year will be a shorter, fiscally focused session with a tailored financial subject matter that only allows legislators to author five general scope bills. The political landscape in 2023 will be high stakes with a gubernatorial election year where most elected officials are on the ballot for reelection or seeking a new office.