Despite Louisiana’s looming fiscal crisis, lawmakers are filing literally hundreds of bills for the upcoming regular session that will serve as both a distraction and a welcomed — albeit temporary — reprieve from the economic doom and gloom. This is an even-numbered year, which means no tax proposals are allowed and lawmakers can file as many non-tax bills as they want.

It’s a perk they’re taking advantage of to the tune of 388 bills in the House and 66 in Senate as of this past weekend. “We’re going to end up with more bills than we did in the regular session two years ago,” says House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers. “That could possibly be problematic because we won’t have any money for new programs, no matter how good they are.”

Two years ago, there were 1,389 bills introduced in the House and 813 in the Senate; in 2006, there were 2,159 bills total; and in 2004, the first time the even-numbered system took effect, there were 2,604 bills filed for consideration.

The regular session that begins March 29 will also give way to a debate over the odd-numbered years as well, courtesy of Rep. Dee Richard, I-Thibodaux. His House Bill 171 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit non-fiscal matters from being considered during sessions in odd-numbered years, when tax legislation is allowed.

If lawmakers approve Richard’s bill, voters will weigh in on the matter on the Nov. 2 ballot. For now, however, lawmakers are more concerned with the even-numbered session that convenes in just two weeks.

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