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Statue in front of State Capitol, Baton Rouge

Legislative Branch Agencies

Legislative Branch

In this section: Rules & Powers | Sessions | Passage of Bills | Spending | Local & Special Laws | Signing of Bills | Gubernatorial Action | Laws' Effective Date | Suspension of Laws | Reapportionment | Auditor

This web page should not be considered a legal document, but rather a basic introduction into Louisiana's legislative branch of state government.  For more in-depth information, please view the Louisiana State Constitution of 1974 or visit the Legislature's website.

"The number of members of the legislature shall be provided by law, but the number of senators shall not exceed thirty-nine and the number of representatives, one hundred five."

Louisiana Constitution,
Article III, Section 3

The legislative branch includes the legislature, which is comprised of the House of Representatives with a limit of 105 members and the Senate with 39 members.

Additionally, officers and employees of the two houses and other officers and agencies are responsible to the legislature. Legislators are elected for four-year terms. A 1995 constitutional amendment limits the number of consecutive terms so that anyone who has served more than two and one-half terms in three consecutive terms may not be elected to the succeeding term in the same house.  The legislature convenes in Baton Rouge at the Louisiana State Capitol for regular annual sessions and may convene for extraordinary or special sessions and for veto sessions. Regular annual sessions in even-numbered years are generally limited to 60 legislative days within 85 calendar days. Regular annual sessions in odd-numbered years are limited to specified fiscal-related subjects and certain other legislation and to 45 legislative days within 60 calendar days.

The legislature is responsible for determining policy through the enactment of laws, subject to federal and state constitutional restrictions. In addition to general laws having statewide application, the legislature may also enact laws applying only to particular localities, within a number of specific constitutional limitations. The appropriation of funds to finance programs and functions of state government is a power vested solely in the legislature. Another major legislative power is oversight of implementation and administration of state programs by executive branch agencies.  Legislative rules continue to be effective even when the legislature is not in session and standing committees of the legislature have authority to conduct studies and hearings during the interim between sessions.

The distribution of representation in both houses is based on population in accordance with state constitutional mandate and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The constitution (Const. Art. III, §1) requires single-member legislative districts; that is, each of the 39 senators and each of the 105 members of the House of Representatives represents a separate district. The legislature is required to reapportion the representation in each house by the end of the year following the year in which the state’s population is reported to the president of the United States for each decennialfederal census, on the basis of total population shown by such census.

Qualifications for Election to the Legislature

  • Age: 18
  • Residence within LA: 2 years
  • Residence within Legislative District: 1 year
  • Term: Four Years
  • Term Limits: 3 consecutive terms
  • Takes Office: same day as other elected officials.

Rules and Powers

Each house gauges the qualifications and elections of its members; it determines its rules of procedure, (but they may not be inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution). Each house may punish its members for disorderly conduct or contempt. It may also expel a member with concurrence of two-thirds of its elected members, requiring a new election for the vacant seat.

Subpoena Power; Contempt

Each house may compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production. They may also order the production of written materials, commonly used for debating bills before the legislature, before any committee thereof, or before joint committees of the houses and may punish those in willful disobedience of its orders for contempt.

Officers

Each house chooses its own officers: President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives. The legislature also chooses clerical officers, the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate, each of whom may administer oaths.

Privileges and Immunities

A member of the legislature has immunity from arrest, except for felony charges, during his attendance at sessions and committee meetings of his house and while going to and from them. Legislative members cannot be held for questioning based on their speech in the legislature.

Conflicts of Interest

Legislative office is a public trust, and every effort to realize personal gain through official conduct is a violation of that trust. The legislature has a code of ethics prohibiting conflict between public duty and private interests.

 

Chamber from Balcony small
House Chamber, State Capitol
Senate Chamber
Senate Chamber, State Capitol

Passage of Bills

The legislature enacts laws only by introducing them in a legislative session for debate and passage by vote. They propose constitutional amendments by a joint resolution introduced during a legislative session. Constitutional ammendments are processed through the houses similar to a bill. Action on any proposed law is taken only in an open, public meeting.

Three Readings

Each bill must be read at least by title on three separate days in each house. No bill can be considered for final passage unless a committee has held a public hearing and reported back to the legislature on the bill.

Amendments

Bills cannot be amended so much that the original concept behind the bill is changed. Amendments are voted upon and require a simple majority vote. Once an amendment to a bill is added in one house and it is passed on to the other, the particular amendment may not be voted upon or debated in the other house.

Majority Vote; Record Vote

A simple majority of the members elected to each house of the legislature successfully passes a bill from the legislature onto the desk of the governor. A vote can also be taken on any other matter within the legislature upon the request of one-fifth of the elected members of one house.

Reconsideration of Rejected Bills

No bill rejected by the legislature in a particular session may be re-introduced during the same session without the a majority vote of the members elected to that house which previously voted against it.

Local and Special Laws

Local or special laws (those outside the normal practice of the legislature) must be posted publicly for at least thirty days prior to introduction of the bill.

The legislature is generally not allowed to pass local or special laws in these cases:

  • Legislating the conduct of elections, including polling places.
  • Changing the names of persons; authorizing changes in the legal status of individuals or personal property.
  • Concerning any civil or criminal actions, including changing the venue in civil or criminal cases, or regulating the practice or jurisdiction of any court, or providing or changing methods for the collection of debt.
  • Authorizing roadway construction, except for the erection of bridges crossing streams which form boundaries between this and any other state.
  • Exempting property from taxation or penalties, including interference with the tax assessor's duties.
  • Regulating labor, trade, manufacturing, or agriculture; fixing the rate of interest.
  • Creating, ammending, or granting special privledge to private corporations.
  • Regulating or funding the management or construction of parish and city public schools.
  • Legalizing unauthorized or invalid acts of any officer, employee, or agent of the state, its agencies, or political subdivisions.
  • Defining any crime.
  • Indirectly enacting special or local laws by partial repeal or suspension of a general law.

Effective Date of Laws

Date upon which enacted bills and constitutional amendments take effect:

  • Acts from an annual regular session - Unless the Act itself states an earlier or later date, all Acts become effective on August 1 after the regular legislative session during which they are adopted.
  • Acts from an extraordinary session - Unless the Act itself states an earlier or later date, all Acts become effective on the 60th day after final adjournment of the extraordinary session in which they were enacted.
  • Constitutional amendments - Unless the amendment provides otherwise, constitutional amendments approved by the voters become effective 20 days after issuance of the governor's proclamation that they have been adopted.

Suspension of Laws

Only the legislature may suspend a law, and then only by at least the same majority vote it was passed with. Except for gubernatorial veto and time limitations for introduction, laws must be suspended according to the same procedures and formalities required for enactment of that law. Every resolution suspending a law specifies the period of suspension, which cannot extend beyond the sixtieth day after final adjournment of the next year's regular session.

Legislative Sessions

Journal
House Journals | Senate Journals

Each house of the legislature keeps a journal of its proceedings and publishes it immediately after the close of each session. The journal reflects the proceedings of that house, including all votes. Each member's vote is published in the journal.

Quorum

No less than a majority of the elected members of each house forms a quorum in order to allow a house of the legislature to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day-to-day. The body of the legislature may compel the attendance of absent members.

Adjournment

When the legislature is in session, neither house adjourns for more than three days or moves to another meeting place without consent of the other house.

Spending

One of the legislature's main functions is in determining how and where the state spends its tax dollars, known as appropriation. The legislature must compose and agree upon a new budget yearly.

Specific Appropriation for One Year

Except as otherwise provided by the constitution, no money is withdrawn from the state treasury unless specific appropriation in legislative bills has been made. No appropriation may be made for longer than one year, or as a contingency.

General Appropriation Bill

The General Appropriation is an itemized bill that contains appropriations for the ordinary operating expenses of government, public charities, pensions, and public debt.

Origin in the House of Representatives

All bills for raising monies originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur in adding amendments, as in other bills.

Extraordinary Session

A bill appropriating money in an extraordinary session (one convened after final adjournment of the yearly regular session) and also happening in the last year of the term of office of a governor, requires the favorable vote of three-fourths of the elected members of both houses of the legislature.

Signing of Bills; Delivery to Governor

A bill passed by both houses of the legislature is signed by the presiding officers and then delivered to the governor within three days after passage. However, joint, concurrent, or other legislative resolutions do not require the action or approval of the governor to become effective.

Gubernatorial Action on Bills

If the governor does not approve a bill, he may veto it. A bill, except a joint resolution, becomes law if the governor signs it or if he fails to sign or veto it within a certain amount of time. Nothwithstanding veto, a bill will pass ten days after delivery to the governor if the legislature is in session, or within twenty days after delivery if the tenth day after delivery occurs when the legislature has adjourned their session.

Veto Message

If the governor vetoes a bill, he returns it to the legislature within twelve days after delivery to him if the legislature is in session. If the governor returns a vetoed bill after the legislature adjourns, it is returned to the legislature before its next session (or special session).

Veto Session

A vetoed bill can become law if, after its return to the legislature, it is approved by two-thirds of the elected members of each house. The legislature may meet in veto session in the state capital 40 days following final adjournment of the most recent session, to consider all bills vetoed by the governor. Veto sessions cannot exceed five days, and any veto session may be finally adjourned prior to the end of the fifth day upon a vote of two-thirds of the elected members of each house.

No veto session may be held if a majority of the elected members of either house declare in writing that a veto session is unnecessary. The declaration must be received by the presiding officer of the respective houses at least five days prior to the day on which the veto session is to convene.

Legislative Reapportionment

By the end of the year following the year in which the population of this state has been reported for the federal census (happening every 10 years), the legislature will reapportion the representation in each house on the basis of population shown by the census. If the legislature fails to reapportion as required, the state supreme court, upon petition of any legislator, will reapportion the representation in each house.

Legislative Auditor

The office of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor is responsible solely to the legislature. He serves as a fiscal advisor to it and audits fiscal records of the state, its agencies, and political subdivisions. The Legislative Auditor is elected a majority vote of the elected members of each house of the legislature. The Auditor may be removed by a two-thirds vote of the elected members of each house.

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