Montoucet: Session ‘relatively good’

Representative details work on Common Core, NGOs, rice dispute

District 42 Rep. Jack Montoucet described the ongoing state legislative session as being “relatively good” in an interview with The Post-Signal on Thursday.

“There has not been as much controversy and the governor has not been engaged, which has made things easier,” he said with a laugh.

The Common Core standards in public schools have dominated the session’s headlines with Governor Bobby Jindal seemingly having changed his stance. He was a outspoken supporter of Common Core when it was being brought before the House and the Senate prior to it being passed. However, he has recently backed off on his support of the system, even supporting a last minute bill to toss out the entire system.

On Thursday, Montoucet, D-Crowley, said Common Core isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“There isn’t another bill scheduled to come before us that will substantially change Common Core and that’s not to say that another one won’t come up,” he said. “At the end of the day it may have been implemented without enough resources. It needed to be laid out with everything in place.”

On Tuesday, a House committee approved a bill that would soften the impact of the national tests that go with Common Core for an additional year.

“This will give schools an additional 12 months to further get acclimated with Common Core,” said Montoucet. “It will give us time to catch up.”

Montoucet also touched on the state controlling money which is being allotted to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). He explained that more than $3 billion in contracts for NGOs are given to companies which aren’t located in Louisiana.

The House passed a bill which will require every department to eliminate 10 percent of these contracts.

“For every good NGO there is another one that uses state money for reasons that are completely unnecessary,”  he said.

Montoucet used retired Crowley teacher Audry Spencer’s Tutorial on Wheels, which tutors students from underprivileged areas, as an example of a good NGO.

The dispute between a group of southwest Louisiana rice farmers and the state about how their assessments should be spent has quietly come to an end.

A bill introduced by Montoucet includes a refund provision for the assessment fees, which are set by the legislature.

The end of the dispute undoubtedly brings relief to those at the Rice Research Center in Crowley who depend on those fees to fund and maintain their research. 

Two other bills written by Montoucet which are set to come before the House involve drainage and pipeline companies who deal with private landowners. 

“These are contracts that essentially last forever,” he said.

The bill dealing with pipelines involves helping landowners to understand their rights before signing over the rights for a company to build a pipeline across their land.

Montoucet’s bill would require pipeline companies to provide a list of information about the possible benefits that they can receive prior to signing a contract.

“Part of this ‘landowner Bill of Rights’ would be a number that landowners can call to receive answers to any questions that they may have regarding the use of their land,” he said.

“The bill just cleared committee and it’s going before the House next week,” the representative added

Montoucet expressed confidence that the Senate would approve the measure. 

The bill dealing with drainage essentially states that “if a landowner and a drainage board go to court over the ability to clear drains that the losing party would have to pay the fees.”

Disputes have arisen recently over who should be responsible for a drainage area being blocked or damaged on private land.

Montoucet also discussed other concerns he had, including money which has been taken from numerous state departmental funds.

The money has been used to provide immediate help for the state’s economy.

However, according to Montoucet, in the long run it will hurt financing for departments which provide coastal research and care for the elderly.

“This is like money laundering,” he said. “The last few years the governor has raided every state fund.”

Montoucet particularly wanted to urge more people to educate themselves as to how the legislature works. He mentioned a letter to the editor which the Post-Signal recently ran that called out Montoucet for the passage of a bill requiring dogs riding in the back of pickup trucks on the interstate to be placed in pens or cages for their own safety.

The letter asked of Montoucet, “Aren’t there more important issues that need to be dealt with.”

“This wasn’t even my bill,” he laughed. “In the legislature we all have to vote on each other’s bills and their concerns aren’t always going to be the same as ours.”

Howell "Howie" Dennis is the news editor for The Crowley Post-Signal. He can be reached at howie.dennis@crowleytoday.com or 337-783-3450.

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