Legislatures spending money to discuss saving money

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ATLANTA — States are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on special legislative sessions whose chief purpose, ironically, is to trim more funding from their eroding budgets.

Analysts expect the number of special sessions, usually a rarity in many states, to soar as governors are left with little choice but to herd lawmakers back to statehouses to balance the books.

"The problem that many states are having now is that they haven't faced extremes like this before," said Brenda Erickson, a senior research analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "And in many cases they don't have any options. They have to do it."

At least 15 states — Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia — have already called legislators back for another round of work. Special sessions are also a possibility in Georgia, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah.

"They're in the hardest spot they can practically be in," Erickson said of governors facing budget woes. "And they're stuck: They took an oath to uphold the state constitution, and the constitution requires them to come back in and fix it."


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