Louisiana’s Latest Special Session Cost Taxpayers $1.1M

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The fall special session held by Louisiana lawmakers to debate COVID-19 rules and hurricane recovery issues carried a taxpayer-financed price tag of more than $1.1 million, according to spending information provided by the House and Senate.

The Senate’s cost was $517,449 — on average more than $19,900 for each day of session, according to data provided by Secretary of the Senate Yolanda Dixon in response to a request from The Associated Press. The House’s cost came in at $620,450 — about $23,900 per day across the 26-day session, according to details provided by House Clerk Michelle Fontenot.

Those tallies include the daily per diem given to state lawmakers for each day of the session, mileage costs to lawmakers, legislative staff pay and overtime, printing charges and office supplies.

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The Senate reported paying $180,741 in per diem and travel reimbursement to its 39 members, while the House spent $487,331 for those costs to its 105 lawmakers. That equals $4,163 paid to each legislator for attending the session, plus any mileage costs.

The session ran from Sept. 28 through Oct. 23. The gathering, with an agenda crafted by Republican legislative leaders, was criticized for doing too little or not being needed at all. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed 15% of the bills passed.

Republican lawmakers said they called the special session to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and address Hurricane Laura and Delta recovery needs. For many Republicans, particularly in the House, they wanted to curb the governor’s emergency powers and remove some or all of Edwards’ virus restrictions.

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But Edwards rejected bills to give lawmakers more authority in his emergency decisions, and the Senate stalled other measures that would have directly revoked the governor’s restrictions.

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