Regular session begins

With two successful dry-runs under their belt, Louisiana legislators have had a chance to adjust to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s breakneck push to overhaul how the state does business.

Now it’s time to see if they’re developing a knack for rethinking the bigger picture – and doing it quickly.

For his part, Jindal was in town just last week touting the need for revamping the state’s Labor Department, teaming with the state’s public schools and higher learning systems to better train workers to meet the current demand.

Workforce initiatives are being widely embraced by the University of Louisiana System and employers across the Tri-parishes alike.

Following the 2005 thrashing by hurricanes Katrina/Rita, the Tri-parishes have implemented a number of efforts – the highly touted Work It! created by the South Central Industrial Association among them – to ready workers for the high job demand.

As most employers are quick to report, south Louisiana has no shortage of good paying jobs available. Finding reliable staffers with the right skill set willing to do the job has been likened to finding a needle in a haystack the size of a demolition site.

But as always, lawmakers have headed to Baton Rouge with their own agendas, too. As the Associated Press reported today, the lineup of bills is a hodge-podge of laws aimed at curing everything from motorists using cell phones while driving to sagging britches to restructuring how hundreds of millions of dollars in construction spending is used in Louisiana.

Most assuredly, over the next few months (the plug gets pulled on the regular session June 23) there will be a fair share of back and forth tugging for money. The state still has a $1 billion surplus in its coffers, money that’s not included in Jindal’s $30.1 billion budget for next year.

With a bevy of pet projects and the need to continue funding hurricane recovery across south Louisiana, fireworks are certain to fly from the Capitol building. Maybe the third time really will be the charm.