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Regional caucus hiring new liaison for legislature

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / March 21, 1998

LULING – The River Region Caucus, made up of government officials from St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes, plan to hire alegislative liaison to work for them during the upcoming legislative session.

In other activity, caucus members attending the meeting at Esperanza Restaurant Thursday in Luling agreed to promote construction of a new state highway to link Bayou Steel Road to Woodland Drive, circling behind River Forest Subdivision.

Also, the panel discussed an upcoming job fair, regional composting and opposition to a proposed statewide oil and gas processing tax.

Chaired by St. Charles Councilman Ron Phillips, other caucus membersattending included St. Charles Parish President Chris Tregre, St. JohnParish President Arnold Labat, St. James Parish Council Chairman TimmyRoussel, Lutcher Alderman Danny Mancel, St. Charles Councilman “Ram”Ramchandran, St. John Councilman Perry Bailey, St. Charles CouncilmanEllis Alexander, St. John Councilman Nickie Monica and St. CharlesCouncilman Brian Champagne.

Also attending were Adam Chandler, the Rev. Wendell Norman and GwenDufrene.

Five lobbyist firms responded positively to requests for proposals mailed last month for the legislative liaison job opening, Phillips said. Theseincluded South Central Planning and Development, Thibodaux; legislative consultant Sarah Whalen, Baton Rouge; corporate consultant Wilma Bonvillian, Metairie; former House Speaker E.L. “Bubba” Henry, seniorpartner of Adams & Reese Law Firm, Baton Rouge; and M.L. “Bud” Mapes &Associates, Baton Rouge.

Fees ranged from $15,000 to $36,000 annually. Champagne said, “There’s aclear distinction between a Toyota and a Cadillac. We want a good,American mid-size.”Champagne added: “The whole point is we need to get informed. Whatwe’ve lacked is information, so we don’t get blindsided.”Bailey moved to have the three parish presidents review those applicants and make a recommendation at their next meeting, scheduled April 21 in St. James Parish.The caucus also approved supporting construction of the proposed new state highway to connect Bayou Steel Road and U.S. Highway 51 atWoodland Drive.

Monica said a feasibility study was done in 1982, but that study needs to be updated and the project placed “back on the front burner.”River Forest Subdivision, which has 435 homes, has only one exit in case of emergency. The resolution will go to the three parish councils forofficial action.

St. John Parish plans a job fair June 5 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at West St.John High School, Labat said. A total of 380 businesses and industrieswere contacted for their possible participation. Twelve promised toattend, Labat continued.

The job fair will also include workshops on completing job applications, resume writing and mastering job interviews.

Champagne said more companies should be contacted within a 50-mile radius of the River Parishes, including such as Bollinger Shipyards, Avondale Shipyards and Cytec Chemical.

Also, the caucus discussed the proposed St. John composting facilitywhich, Labat said, would be located just east of St. John Airport inReserve.

No action was taken regarding the proposal.

Finally, the caucus agreed to oppose a tax proposal offered by Sen. FosterCampbell in the Louisiana Legislature. That proposal would impose a taxon oil and gas processing facilities to raise funds for education and road improvements.

Northern Louisiana parishes reportedly support it, having no such industries in that area. Southern parishes widely oppose it.Roussel said offshore exploration would suffer, investments would be cut back, jobs would be lost and the tax burden would be on Louisiana industries with no out-of-state industries facing the tax burden.

Labat said he would make a presentation on regional transportation needs, especially mass transit, at the next caucus meeting, “We’ve all done a little, but it’s not enough,” he said.

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