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Constitutional Convention debate coming

Reynolds, Gatti review week one

The first week of the 2018 Regular Legislative Session is in the books, and two local lawmakers have their own views on the progress being made in Baton Rouge.

State Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Minden, and State Sen. Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier City, reviewed week one in their respective chambers.

Reynolds said about 15 bills made it out of committee and to the House floor. “[The bills were] mostly local and mostly naming roads, bridges, and special license plates,” he said.

Reynolds said bills will be more plentiful and substantial this week.

“The first of the constitutional convention bills will be on the floor next week ,” Reynolds said. “HB 500 will offer the chance of a convention, and has support and opposition.”

While the idea of a constitutional convention has been batted around in previous sessions, HB 500 will be the first debate on it this year. Reynolds said the opposition involves the convention process, and those affected.

“I am for a convention but the hang ups are the delegate selection and the fear of big money buying the convention results,” Reynolds said. “Also fear is rising with groups that have dedicated funds: K-12 education, local government, corporate entities, and others. Everyone wants a change — but don’t change them.”

Reynolds said getting the 70 votes needed to move the legislation forward would be tough. “Special interests on both sides are working this weekend in preparation for the floor fight.” Reynolds said.

“I can’t see any other way to permanently fix our financial problem, so watch next week for the amendments and votes.”

Gatti was encouraged with the atmosphere the Senate after the first week of the session. “The mood in the senate is calm and collected, and we are poised to work together,” he said.

Some of Gatti’s bills were considered in week one, but he’s looking for some real movement on others in week two, including a bill involving land transfers at Lake Bistineau. “We had two more people apply this year,” Gatti said.

Another bill up for consideration this week, would provide for continued support for foster children once they turn 18, if they are still in high school. Senate Bill 129 would, “allow a child who is in foster care and who is also a full-time high school student to remain in foster care until he attains the age of twenty-one or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first.”

“That bill is coming up March 21 in committee,” Gatii said.

While he sees progress in items coming through the legislature, Gatii said the budget shortfall is continually on the front burner.

“I don’t think there is any way we will be able to fund everything at the levels we did last year,” Gatti said.

The House convenes at 4 p.m. and the Senate convenes at 5 p.m. with committee meetings throughout the day.