- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Latest on the regular legislative session (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards already is receiving pushback against his proposals to enact a state equal pay law and to raise Louisiana’s minimum wage.

Dawn Starns, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, released a statement Monday saying her organization will ask lawmakers to resist Edwards’ “overreaching policies.” She said that would create hardships for small business.

Edwards, speaking Monday on the opening day of the regular legislative session, told lawmakers he’s proposing a measure aimed at closing a wage gap that has women averaging 67 cents in pay for every dollar paid to men.



He also said he’s asking lawmakers to boost the minimum wage in Louisiana from the national level of $7.25 an hour to $8 in 2017 and to $8.50 a year later.

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1:45 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has outlined an expansive, Democratic agenda to lawmakers as they opened their regular legislative session.

The governor is pushing proposals certain to run into opposition from the majority Republican House and Senate.

He said Monday he’ll seek an equal pay law to close a wage gap that has women averaging 67 cents in pay for every dollar paid to men. He also wants to boost Louisiana’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8 in 2017 and to $8.50 a year later.

Edwards defended his plans to expand Louisiana’s Medicaid program, scheduled to take effect July 1, saying it will save the state money, bring jobs to the state and help the working poor.

On K-12 education, Edwards is seeking to limit which students can receive taxpayer-financed vouchers to private schools and put new restrictions on charter school creation.

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1:15 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is urging Louisiana’s lawmakers to “let’s get back on track” after a divisive special session that didn’t address all the state’s deep budget troubles.

The Democratic governor spoke to the majority Republican House and Senate as they opened the annual regular special session Monday.

Edwards says stabilizing the state budget, which has an $800 million shortfall in the fiscal year that begins July 1, remains his top priority. But he also laid out an expansive agenda that is likely to run into resistance from Republican lawmakers.

The governor talked of his plans to expand Medicaid on July 1, while some Republicans are looking for roadblocks. Edwards also is pushing an increase in the state’s minimum wage, an equal pay law and changes to the state’s voucher program.

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12:10 p.m.

Louisiana’s lawmakers have opened a new legislative session. But they face the same financial problems that have kept the state staggering from one budget crisis to the next.

The House and Senate were unable to fully dig out of the budget gaps in a contentious special session on taxes that ended only days ago. They began the three-month regular session Monday staring down an $800 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

With taxes off the table for the session, lawmakers will be left cobbling together a budget that likely will contain steep cuts across government services.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat in office since January, speaks to the majority Republican Legislature in the afternoon.

The session must end June 6.

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