BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The 2021 legislative session has officially begun with the house and senate meeting for the first time this year on Monday.
The session comes on the heels of the one year anniversary of the pandemic beginning.
Lawmakers are focused on how relief dollars will be spent.
“I want us to not do what we did after Katrina and spend all of the money knowing this is one-time relief dollars,” Representative Edward James II said. “But the dollars that we do spend I think we’ve got to do some infrastructure, take care of those priorities to invest in higher ed.”
Governor John Bel Edwards has proposed a $36 billion budget that will rely on federal relief dollars to help give raises to educators and cover Medicaid expenses. The state tax collections have improved but they are not yet back to pre-pandemic levels.
Outside of financial talks, legislators are working to push forward bills that had to take a back seat in 2020. Representative Denise Marcelle has once again filed to limit water withdrawal from the Southern Hills Aquifer.
“I’m looking forward to moving that legislation forward as well and having some healthy debates and discussions around how we assure that we continue to have some of the best water in the country,” Rep. Marcelle said.
Other bills taking the spotlight this year are talks on legalizing medical marijuana as well as establishing sports betting.
Representatives said they believe it’ll be a fierce year since many lawmakers want to get things done now the state is recovering.
“We’re going to move at a real rapid pace. I know those folks who are criminal justice reform advocates didn’t advance any bills last year so this year is going to be major,” Rep. James said.
The new members were sworn in and the list of bills were read and assigned to their committees.