Legislators speak about session
By Katherine Miller
THE POST SIGNAL
CROWLEY – In the wake of the Legislative session, which came to a close in late June, Legislators Jack Montoucet and Dan “Blade” Morrish shared an overview of the session from their side. “Overall, the session went very well,” Montoucet said enthusiastically. Morrish seemed to be pleased as well.
Also on Montoucet’s agenda were two NGO’s (Non-government organizations) that he requested funding for, one that would help more people in the area to become homeowners, and also a program for after school tutoring for school children in West Crowley, both of which were denied. Montoucet also explained that funding for the Opera House in Crowley was cut short.
The Stelly Plan was a highlight of the session, as in the next few years tax breaks will be granted for the taxpayers. Also an important bill that was passed concerned the coverage of autism treatment therapy as part of insurance policies in Louisiana, as far as Montoucet is concerned.
When Morrish recalled highlights of the session, his first thought focused on the final passage of the disclosure laws, of which he worked closely with State Representative Steve Scalise, now requires the mandatory disclosure of detailed information on spending earmarks, and were able to establish criteria to make the information searchable online. This bill was implemented under Shroder’s Senate Bill 106.
His recap also included the fact that the budget for this year was decreased some 12 percent from last year’s budget, and that teachers received a $1,000 pay-raise, as well as fireman, who received a $425 pay-raise.
Support personnel who work in the schools were eligible for a one time pay-raise of $1,000.
Another important highlight brought up by Morrish was that severance tax revenue sharing received a very significant increase. “This plan is beneficial because once the cap of $850,000 has been met by a parish, that parish would receive additional funding for such things as the repairs of roads and bridges. This will be on the ballot in October as a proposed amendment,” Morrish cited.
“I believe that many were disappointed because they didn’t receive the funding for such things as to support the causes of the NGO’s,” Morrish stated, “I also believe that some of the proposed legislation should have been passed, but it was because some of the proper procedures weren’t followed, and were therefore vetoed as a result.”
The biggest task as far as Montoucet was concerned was figuring out what he could do to draw support from his fellow legislators. “We received much support on the Senate side from Mike Michot, as well as Nick Gautreaux. We met with Governor Jindal on the issue of the Rayne Water park, asking for funds to allow a service road as access to the park. The funding was initially cut out, but the governor assured us that we would receive the balance for pre-construction of the road in January as more funds become available,” Montoucet said.
Montoucet also acknowledged that he had not voted for the legislative pay-raise, and that unfortunately, the whole session was partially soured by the governor’s approval on the issue. Morrish echoed a similar sentiment on the issue, “It was ashamed that the session was overshadowed by the passing of the legislative pay-raise,” he agreed.
In preparation for future sessions, Montoucet plans to readdress some of these issues and to further research his proposed projects in hopes of gaining more support for the area. “This session, to me went better than any session that I can remember, as far as Acadiana is concerned. Everyone from the area came together,” Montoucet mused. “It was an overall great session. For the first time since John J. McKeithen was governor, which was more than 30 years ago, we have balanced the budget without using any one time moneys,” Morrish ended proudly.