Virus concerns weigh heavy as lawmakers return for legislative session
BATON ROUGE - The legislature was back Monday, but it was far from business as usual. Face masks, plexi glass partitions in the House, seating draped in caution tape, and signs encouraging social distancing served as reminders of the outbreak gripping the state.
Lawmakers asked to come back to take care of business.
"We have to have a budget," Senator Bodi White said.
Going into the session at the beginning of the year, more than 1,500 bills were expected to be voted on. Now that number has been slashed, and the budget is the priority.
"We're coming back under some of the most stressed economic times since hurricane Katrina," White said.
White says the conditions are not ideal to come back, but it's something that he thinks has to be done.
"Unemployment is record high since the depression in the state. They have people that have lost their businesses. They have people that are out of work because the business is lost, and I think we have to come back in and get some stimulus legislation passed to get things rolling again."
However not everyone was there. There were 18 absences in the house and 16 in the senate, including Senator Regina Barrow.
"To have lost nine people in 10 days, to have lost two people in the same day... This is something that I'm not taking lightly," Barrow said over a video call.
She chose not to come in today for fear of hers and others' safety.
"I still have a lot of concerns about the building, about the ventilation of the building, about the process as it relates to sanitation. And so therefore I wanted to do my own assessment before I go, if I go."
Though she agrees the budget needs passing, she says she thinks they should have waited until the governor's stay-at-home order expires on May 15.
If they can't agree on a budget by June 1, they will have to go into special session with a hard deadline of July 1.
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