Article III Legislative Branch

SECTION 1 Legislative Power; Composition; Continuous Body

  • (A) Legislative Power of State. The legislative power of the state is vested in a legislature, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The Senate shall be composed of one senator elected from each senatorial district. The House of Representatives shall be composed of one representative elected from each representative district.
  • (B) Continuous Body. The legislature is a continuous body during the term for which its members are elected; however, a bill or resolution not finally passed in any session shall be withdrawn from the files of the legislature.

Section 1(A) made little change, continuing the senate and the house of representatives as existing. Section 1(B) was an innovation in the 1974 Constitution designed to allow the legislature, and especially its committees, to continue more activities during the interim between annual sessions.

SECTION 2 Sessions

  • (A) Annual Session. The legislature shall meet annually in regular session in the state capital for not more than sixty legislative days during a period of eighty-five calendar days. A legislative day is a calendar day on which either house is in session. No such session shall continue beyond the eightyfifth calendar day after convening. The legislature shall convene at noon on the third Monday in April. No new matter intended to have the effect of law shall be introduced or received by either house after midnight of the fifteenth calendar day, except by a favorable record vote of two-thirds of the elected members of each house. No measure levying a new tax or increasing an existing tax shall be introduced or enacted during a regular session held in an odd-numbered year.
  • (B) Extraordinary Session. The legislature may be convened at other times by the governor and shall be convened by the presiding officers ofboth houses upon written petition of a majority of the elected members of each house. The form of the petition shall be provided by law. At least five days prior to convening the legislature in extraordinary session, the governor or the presiding officers, as the case may be, shall issue a proclamation stating the objects of the session, the date on which it shall convene, and the number of days for which it is convened. The power to legislate shall be limited, under penalty of nullity, to the objects specifically enumerated in the proclamation. The session shall be limited to the number of days stated therein, which shall not exceed thirty calendar days.
  • (C) Emergency Session. The governor may convene the legislature in extraordinary session without prior notice or proclamation in the event ofpublic emergency caused by epidemic, enemy attack, or public catastrophe.
  • (D) Organizational Session. The legislature shall meet in an organizational session in the state capitol to be convened at ten o'clock in the morning on the day the members are required to take office. No such session shall exceed three legislative days. The session shall be for the primary purpose of judging the qualifications and elections of the members, taking the oath of office, organizing the two houses, and selecting officers. No matter intended to have the effect of law shall be introduced at an organizational session. [Paragraph D added by Louisiana Acts 1989, No. 841]

The 1921 Constitution provided for alternating annual sessions of 60 and 30 days, the shorter sessions being confined to fiscal matters. The fiscal sessions were implemented after a long period during which the legislature met only in biannual regular sessions. Section 2(A) changed the system, providing for annual 60-day sessions. A remnant of the old limitations on the fiscal sessions remains, however: no tax increases or new taxes are allowed during sessions held in an odd-numbered year. Audubon Insurance Co. v. Bernard (1983) dealt with legislation assessing insurers a fee to be transferred to the firefighters’ retirement system. The court construed the charge to be a tax, and thus invalid, in part because it was adopted in the regular session of an odd-numbered year.

The governor may call the legislature into an extraordinary session at any time, and the houses can call themselves into extraordinary sessions upon petition of a majority of the members of each house. Nothing in the constitution prevents these special sessions from enacting or raising taxes. In a special session, the legislature is confined to legislating with respect to the objects stated in the call.

The section prohibits the introduction of bills (“new matter") after the fifteenth day of the session without a two-thirds vote. This limitation was applied by the court of appeal in Casey v. Southern Baptist Hospital (1988), a case in which a bill dealing generally with strict liability in tort was drastically amended to provide immunity from liability to blood providers. The court concluded this was the type of “gutting of bills in order to ‘introduce’ new proposed legislation” that the section was designed to prohibit. Under this same rationale, the once- common practice of introducing bills by title only, and then amending them later to pour substantive content into them, is constitutionally flawed.

Hainkel v. Henry (1975) held that legislative committees may meet and take action when the legislature is not in session without such a day being counted as a legislative day within the limitations of this section.

Paragraph D was added by amendment in 1989 to allow organizational sessions when new legislators are elected every four years. Legislators take office the second Monday in January following their election (Art. III, sec. 5; Art. IV, sec. 3), the same time statewide elected officials are sworn in. The organizational session is limited to seating the members, electing officers, and otherwise organizing the bodies.

 
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