Representatives planning for upcoming session

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 27, 2013

LAPLACE – The Louisiana State Leg-islature will convene in a little less than two weeks on April 8, and River Parishes Reps. Randal L. Gaines, Gregory A. Miller and Clay Schexnayder predict that it will be a trying but productive session.
Gaines and Schex-nayder said they expect to get a lot done. They think that this session is what is needed to get “get the state back in forward momentum,” according to Schexnayder. The two expect school safety, homeland security and flooding/drainage discussion to be central issues, among other topics. The representatives are limited to filing a maximum of five non-fiscal bills this year.
“Louisiana has made drastic improvement and great strides in the economic development arena. I’m looking forward to working with the other legislators to continue that upward trend. We are now in the top five states in the country in terms of favorable business clients. 10-15 years ago, we were in the bottom percentages,” said Gaines.
As far as bills and issues they plan to discuss during the session, Schexnayder said he will carry a bill that will help streamline the government and make it more efficient by eliminating state boards and commissions that are ineffective. He also plans to have the state turn over the responsibility for the Garyville Timbermill Museum.
“I think the parish of St. John and Garyville are ready to take responsibility and get it back to the community,” he said.
Gaines has a handful of policies he hopes to implement. He said he is currently working on lowering the state incarceration rate by making vocational training available for inmates and the recently released.
“We have one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. It’s a drain on our budget, and it’s a waste of human resources,” he said.
Gaines is also looking at getting more funding for workforce training in general to better attract industry to the state. He is currently drafting a bill to that will require gas stations to post noticeable warnings on pumps that provide gasoline with more than 10 percent ethanol — according to him, anything above 10 percent ethanol can wreak havoc on small and marine engines, and possibly the engines of older model cars.
Miller expects this upcoming session to be more difficult because of the state’s massive budget deficit and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plans to increase sales tax and eliminate income tax.
“The state has to fill between $1.2 to $1.3 billion gap between expected revenues and expected expenses. The budget that has been proposed by the administration includes a lot of what I would call contingencies and speculative type of funds that we may not come through with (for example, funds that are based on the sale of state property). Those are the kind of issues we are dealing with,” he said.
In regard to Jindal’s plans, Miller said he doesn’t like the idea of raising the sales tax because the state of Louisiana already has one of the highest sales tax rates to begin with, and he wants to be sure that the increase won’t be a case of “shooting ourselves in the foot.” The increase in tax could potentially handicap some industries by eliminating tax cut incentives, as in the case of the film industry.
“There’s going be a lot of difficulties with that because even though it might be revenue neutral for the state, it may not be revenue neutral to specific business and individuals,” he said.
Miller said that he is currently considering 10 different bills though he has not begun pre-filing yet. One is a package of bills that includes a proposed constitutional amendment that will give the Legislature more control over the budget process to avoid mid-year cuts. Miller said the bills would ensure that non-recurring revenues are spent on non-recurring expenses, such as paying down the state’s unfunded pension liabilities, and would also make it so that representatives will receive potential bills earlier in the session to allow them more time to review before deliberating.
All three representatives said that they will fight to maintain the Edgard/Reserve ferry service. The topic is a high-priority item, as they believe state does not grasp how important the service is to residents.
“Edgard is not in my district, but it is the parish seat. The idea that we would make individuals travel so far to get the courthouse is absurd. We think that we need to make the state realize that this is an important thing, just like paving the roads,” said Miller.
“It’s something that’s desperately needed. There’s just a matter of finding funding to keep it open,” said Schexnayder.
“The state has been pursuing the position that they can’t afford the ferries, so we’re looking at some innovative measures to maintain the service. We’re going to put forth every effort to try and find a solution to that situation,” said Gaines.
 The Legislature will convene at noon on Monday, April 8 at 900 N. Third St. in Baton Rouge. For more information on pre-filed bills, concurrent resolution and future session dates, visit