Thibodaux Lawmaker “Dee” Richard Wants Special Session Over Budget Cuts
Scrutiny over budget cuts made by Governor Bobby Jindal has Representative Jerome "Dee" Richard (I) asking his fellow legislators to call themselves into special session. Richard says he and a number of legislators are unhappy about Governor Jindal cutting them out of the budget process:
Since we left session I'm figuring there have been cuts to about the tune of a million dollars and they are all without our input. Not saying that the cuts are right or wrong but I would think we owe it to our constituents to know what is going on and to make sure that is what we need to do.
Richard says the Governor's cuts have closed health care facilities, shut down state prisons and impacted education, without any input from lawmakers. He says right now everything is being done behind closed doors and that needs to change "because we don't know if he's right on the cuts he is making. But I would think with input from us and input from the administration in a session we would know the answer to that," says Richard.
Governor Jindal defends the closure of one of those prisons, Phelps Correctional Center in Beauregard Parish. He says it was good financial sense:
It was costing the state over $50 per day per inmate to house those prisoners at Phelps. It's going to cost the state less than $16 per day to house those same prisoners in two other state facilities (Angola and another facility).
Jindal says Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc made the right choice:
The state will end up saving over almost $12 million a year by the next fiscal year when the savings are fully realized...while still mantaining public safety.
But lawmakers are upset they weren't consulted on the decision. Legislators still face a lengthy process calling for a special session. If they cross this first hurdle an official petition would be sent to all legislators who would have 20 days to reply. If a session is called it could be held just before or after the November election. Richard says he just wants what's best for everyone:
The point is to do what's best for the state of Louisiana and the people of this state. And I think the best thing we could do is meet in special session - which is our right to do that by the Constitution.
If Richard succeeds, it would be the first time in over 40 years the legislature has called itself into special session.