- Associated Press - Monday, February 13, 2017

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

7:15 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards urged lawmakers to use Louisiana’s “rainy day” fund to help eliminate a $304 million budget gap as the House and Senate opened a deficit-closing special session called by the governor.

Edwards told lawmakers Monday night that their mission was to stabilize the budget “while adequately funding the programs and services the people of Louisiana consider to be priorities.”

He said with little more than four months left in the budget year, taking nearly $120 million from the rainy day fund to help fill the gap was a responsible approach.



Edwards said not tapping into the savings account would “inflict more pain” upon people than was needed.

House Republican leaders have shown resistance to using the reserve account, saying the state should cut more deeply instead.

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6:35 p.m.

Louisiana’s lawmakers have opened a special legislative session called by Gov. John Bel Edwards to close the state’s $304 million budget deficit.

In the 10-day special session lawmakers have to decide how deeply to cut spending and how much to tap into state reserves to rebalance Louisiana’s $27 billion operating budget.

House Republican leaders questioned the need for the session, saying the Democratic governor and the Legislature’s joint budget committee could rebalance the budget on their own.

But Edwards said that authority was too limited and the full Legislature could broaden the impact of the reductions to lessen the pain.

The biggest dispute will be over whether to tap into Louisiana’s “rainy day” fund to help lessen the cuts.

The session that began Monday must end by Feb. 22.

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4:30 p.m.

The special session aimed at closing Louisiana’s deficit will also have senators taking up a dispute with one of their own.

Republican Sens. Dan Claitor and Sharon Hewitt said they are filing legislation on Monday’s opening day of the session to try to boot their colleague, Sen. Troy Brown, from the Senate.

Brown, a Democrat from Gesimar, has pleaded no contest twice to domestic abuse charges over the last year and served jail time last month. He has refused to resign.

Claitor said he expects to have enough votes - and enough time in the 10-day session - to remove Brown from his seat.

Brown’s lawyer didn’t respond to a phone call Monday. The senator has said he is anger management counseling and believes expulsion is too extreme a punishment.

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6 a.m.

Louisiana’s lawmakers are trudging back to work for a special deficit-closing session that many of them didn’t want to have.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has called them back to the Capitol to close a $304 million deficit.

The session opens at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

It will have little of the festive air that normally marks lawmakers’ return to Baton Rouge.

Instead, they’re gathering for an unlikeable chore, rebalancing the state’s $27 billion operating budget and making spending cut decisions.

House Republican leaders questioned the need for the session, saying the Democratic governor and the Legislature’s joint budget committee had the authority to make cuts on their own. But Edwards said that authority was too limited and the full Legislature could broaden the impact of the reductions to lessen the pain.

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