ORLANDO, Fla. - Louisiana lawmakers wrapped up this year's legislative session on Monday, completing details of an $11 billion fiscal year 1993 budget and approving a five-year capital improvement plan totaling $1.9 billion.
The final day of the session followed passage on Sunday of a bill establishing a constitutional convention to reform state taxes that will convene in late August.
"I have to tell you I think this is one of the most productive legislative sessions I have seen in eight years," Gov. Edwin Edwards said in a news conference.
Peyton Smith, Mr. Edwards's spokesman, said yesterday that the governor is expected to sign the budget and constitutional convention bills soon.
The 1993 budget will renew the state's three-cent sales tax on formerly exempt items such as food and utilities through the end of fiscal 1994. The sales tax had been scheduled to expire at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.
However, the measure does not include a provision sought by Mr. Edwards that would have extended a special four-cent per gallon tax on motor fuel to 2015 from 2005. State voters approved the tax, which has been used to back state highway debt, in a 1989 constitutional referendum.
Although for most lawmakers the main event of the legislative session was the controversial approval of casino gambling in New Orleans two weeks ago, the final days of the session were not without drama.
Passage of the bill calling for the constitutional convention was threatened by senators who objected to House changes to the original Senate bill. The representatives' measure called for a single-chamber convention made up of all 144 state legislators rather than a convention composed of elected and appointed delegates.
A compromise was worked out whereby a two-chamber convention composed of legislators will meet between Aug. 23 and Sept. 22. Under the bill passed Monday, a simple majority of both chambers could put a constitutional amendment on state taxes before voters on Nov. 3.
Approval of the capital plan also came shortly before the midnight deadline after representatives initially balked at $372 million in additional outlays that the senators had added to a $1.53 billion plan passed by the House.
In the last days of the session, lawmakers also approved two bills that would establish major new debt-issuing authorities in the state.
One bill would set up the Louisiana Airport Authority, giving it the power to sell bonds for a proposed international airport between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The other would permit establishment of the Louisiana Maritime Development Authority to fund shipyard improvements in Louisiana's cities. Gov. Edwards signed both of those bills into law on Monday.
The completion of the legislative session also brought to an end attempts to limit the gambling in Louisiana following approval of the casino bill. Lawmakers opposed to the casino legislation had pinned their hopes on a bill that would have given state voters a chance to approve a constitutional amendment limiting New Orleans to one casino. That bill died after being tabled in a Senate committee.
With the end of the session, proposed legislation that would have required lobbyist disclosure and forbidden legislators from having contracts with the state also died.