Louisiana, Maine Legislatures Set To Adjourn
By Bair S Walker , Senior Writer
Two more states, Maine and Louisiana, are about to wind up their legislative sessions, leaving 13 states still engaged in the business of making laws.
Louisiana is on track to adjourn Monday at 6 p.m. as scheduled.
The picture is not quite as clear in Maine. Politicians there traditionally call it quits on the third Wednesday of the month, which was June 16. This year however, lawmakers are gathering at the statehouse this morning to hold a so-called "veto day."
If business isn't wrapped up, Maine's constitution provides for two five-day extensions to take care of pending matters. This means adjournment could conceivably come today, or as late as June 28.
The final week of Louisiana's legislative session was marked by the kind of fast and furious wheeling and dealing that typically occurs in statehouses facing mountains of legislation and dwindling time.
Lawmakers were forced to work until midnight Tuesday: After that deadline, bills that hadn't advanced through the House and Senate would no longer have received consideration.
Before adjourning, Louisiana legislators pushed through a measure that drew nationwide attention. It requires Louisiana students in fifth grade and younger to address teachers using the honorifics "sir" and "ma'am."
Critics scoffed that the bill, which Republican Gov. Mike Foster supports, was a hollow bid to legislate civility, while proponents called it a desperately needed measure to teach young people respect.
On the drug/crime front, Louisiana politicians came down hard on an illegal substance called GHB, also known as the date-rape drug. Anyone arrested with more than an ounce of GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate, in their possession would face a 10-year prison sentence.
Teachers were dismayed to see Senate and House plans to give Louisiana teachers pay raises evaporate. "We're very disappointed," said Lawrence Narcisse of the Louisiana Association of Educators, a teachers' union that pushed the plans.
Keeping Louisiana politics spicy, as always, a retiring Democratic state senator used the waning days of the session and his career -- to characterize Gov. Foster as a pro-gambling hypocrite.
"He has been a promoter of gambling all the way through," state Sen. B.G. Dyess, a retired Baptist minister, grumbled to The Advocate , a Baton Rouge newspaper. For his part, Foster denied the accusation and noted that Dyess is a "mean-spirited man for a preacher."
Not wishing to gamble on human cloning, Louisiana politicians passed a bill banning human cloning in the state for the next four years
In Maine, legislative adjournment probably won't come a minute too soon for some of the state';s senior citizens. Lawmakers were inundated with irate phone calls after the legislature passed a bill earlier this month giving some retirees tax breaks, at the expense of other retirees.
The legislation, which was vetoed by Gov. Angus King last Friday, called for the Social Security benefits of some citizens to be taxed in order to give tax breaks to retired teachers, state workers, federal workers and military personnel.
King's veto of the tax bill will have plenty of company. The independent governor shot down much of his legislature's work, including bills calling for a $200,000 appropriation to aid disabled students heading into the work force, a $50 monthly increase for foster parents worth about $461,000, and a $240,000 appropriation fortourism and marketing.
A bill that did pass King's muster lifts the statute of limitations in sex abuse cases involving children.
He has yet to turn his attention to a bill funneling another $50 million to Maine's Highway Fund by imposing a 3 cent gasoline-tax increase and a $2 increase in motor vehicle registration fees.
There were also these developments in other statehouses:
The Oklahoma Legislature met in special session to tackle capital improvements for higher education,Truth-in-Sentencing and money for the trial of those accused of bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City (a state/local followup to the federal trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.)
Wednesday, Montana's legislature ended a special session that managed to achieve an agreement between the state and the Crow Native American tribe, ending an ugly, long-standing dispute over coal taxes and water uses in southeastern Montana.
Michigan lawmakers recessed for the summer after passing a partial-birth abortion bill that Republican Gov. John Engler is expected to sign.
Arizona state politicians are supposed to huddle in special session next week to deal with a $15.5 million funding shortfall.
South Carolina lawmakers, whose General Assembly adjourned June 3, met this week in special session to reach a compromise on video poker regulations. Gambling is a hotly- debated issue in the Bible Belt state. Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges' campaign for a state-sponsored lottery was widely regarded as a key factor in his defeat of incumbent Republican David Beasley in last November's election.
State senators and representatives aren't the only ones slogging through mind-numbing quantities of legislation at session-end.
In Alabama, Gov. Don Siegelman on Thursday began the task of deciding whether to sign into law 138 bills passed by state lawmakers. Siegelman, whose legislature has adjourned, has until midnight Saturday to make his picks.