BATON ROUGE -- The first full day of the Special Legislative Session started slow, despite a critical budget battle ahead and fallout from last night's regular session meltdown still lingering.
"I've been here 18 years, I've never seen anything like this," said Sen. Karen Carter-Peterson, D-New Orleans, "I've never the incompetence and the lack of leadership."
Emotions were raw as state lawmakers walked out of the Capitol without a budget.
"I mean, just a complete disappointment and disgrace," said Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans.
Governor John Bel Edwards, and some legislators in both chambers, were baffled when the special session, to keep the budget ball rolling, was adjourned minutes after it started, not to begin again until Monday.
But members of the House Appropriations Committee say that's because, procedurally, the budget bill has to be re-written from scratch before it comes to them -- sort of.
"The budget will technically start over, but we're going to start over with what we just finished with," said Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, "We proposed a bill to the Senate that would spend $200 million less than what the governor requested."
That offer assures funding for TOPS and doesn't raise taxes, but the compromise gap does leave spending questions up in the air, including pay raises for civil service workers.
Among the state employees in the lurch are Probation and Parole officers, who say their uncompetitive paychecks result in constant staff turnover due to, for some, struggles at home.
"They cannot put food on their table for their families. They have to get second jobs, they have to work extra details to make ends meet," said Officer Francisco Dean, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 50, "Unfortunately, you can go to another state agency, make $16,000 more dollars and not have to work a second job. That's important to families."
When officers do leave, that in turn leads to stressful workloads that leave remaining officers with an average of 163 cases, when the Southern average is 112 cases.
But those officers say they are thankful for the bi-partisan support and hard work they've seen throughout the regular session. They're just hoping for a better outcome, for themselves, in the special session.
This is the first time the Legislature has not approved an annual spending plan in its regular session since 2000.
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