Louisiana House passes measure aimed at reining in state contracts; here are next steps

The Louisiana House has sent legislation to the Senate that seeks to rein in state contracts and provide more transparency.

House Concurrent Resolution 2 would direct Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, the commissioner of higher education and statewide elected officials to review all of their contracts and justify the need for them.

The measure, which goes to the Senate for approval, gives leaders until March 14 to sort out details about the state’s estimated 15,000 professional, personal and consulting contracts valued at roughly $21 billion.

Edwards, by executive order, already has instructed all agencies, boards, commissions and other budget units of the executive branch to review the contracts to look for ones that can be eliminated or reduced.

State Rep. Lance Harris, an Alexandria Republican who sponsored the resolution, said the measure would provide an additional layer of oversight.

“We need to know how our taxpayers’ dollars are being spent,” he said.

The state is facing a $900 million shortfall in the current budget, which ends June 30. An estimated $2 billion deficit is anticipated for the following budget cycle.

“There’s a lot of talk around the state about how many contracts we have and who they are going to,” Harris said. “This will get to the bottom of it.”

The special legislative session, and effective deadline for the measure to pass, is March 9.

A separate bill, House Bill 96, which would have instructed the administration to cut contracts across the board by 15 percent, didn’t get the two-thirds votes needed on the House floor to pass Wednesday, but the House has the option to bring it back up.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .

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