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Lawmakers Close 2019 Session By Passing Budget, But Fall Short On Gaming Bills

Governor John Bel Edwards
Wallis Watkins
Governor John Bel Edwards

Lawmakers worked to the bitter end of the legislative session Thursday to address the two biggest remaining issues: the state’s next budget and the future of fantasy sports gaming in Louisiana.

The $30 billion state budget fully funds TOPS, increases K-12 funding, gives public school teachers their first pay raise in a decade, and sends more money to early childhood education, children and family services and the Department of Corrections.

In a press conference, Governor John Bel Edwards said the budget makes the right kind of investments for the state.

“Finally, we were able to pass a budget that focuses on the things that we want to focus on,” said Edwards following adjournment.

While next year’s budget is settled, other significant pieces of legislation failed to gain support this session.

An effort to legalize sports betting in Louisiana faced early setbacks, but didn’t die until the final minutes. Dying with it was the framework to implement online fantasy sports in the state.

Senator Danny Martiny (D-Metairie) hijacked a pair of bills that would have regulated and taxed fantasy sports games, which voters in nearly 50 parishes approved on last year’s ballot.

That move was unpopular, especially in the House, but Martiny kept pushing it.

Sports betting was eventually stripped from the bills, which cleared the House just in time. But in the Senate, a last-minute protest by Martiny delayed a vote, preventing Louisiana residents from playing fantasy sports anytime soon.

“All I asked them was can we have a referendum just to see if sports betting is as popular as fantasy sports, and I suggest to you that those results would come back,” Senator Martiny told members in the final moments of session.

Copyright 2019 WRKF

Wallis Watkins is a Baton Rouge native. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Louisiana State University in 2013. Soon after, she joined WRKF as an intern and is now reporting on health and health policy for Louisiana's Prescription.