Scalise Sheds Light on Congressional Matters

July 2022- The Main Street Issue
July 1, 2022
One Drop
July 1, 2022

Congressman Steve Scalise was the guest speaker at a special June 6 Houma-Terrebonne and Lafourche Chambers of Commerce Joint Luncheon where he touched on several issues that he deems important and even concerning. Scalise was elected into Congress in 2008 after serving in the Louisiana legislature from 1998 to 2008. 

The Congressman began the meeting by commending the area on Hurricane Ida’s recovery. He touted Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes’ efforts to fight against coastal erosion, “One of the challenges to coming back that we have to get resolved is the way the National Flood Insurance Program Works. This has been something we’ve been talking about for a while,” he said. He shared that two years ago, Congress was able to get FEMA to delay the implementation of Risk Rating 2.0, however, the program recently went into effect, “It’s been an odyssey and it’s been a very frustrating process,” he said.

He has worked with various flood protection districts in Terrebonne and Lafourche and said the area “knows how to build levees.” He commented how they’ve fought together to get the money for flood protection projects. Although some funding is federal money, he pointed out that most of the work is done with local money because of officials working hard to obtain their own source of funding, ”It provided real flood protection and then Risk Rating 2.0 comes out and you start seeing these dramatic increases in flood [insurance rates] and you can’t even get answers from FEMA right now,” he said.

 He continued saying that he has been contacting FEMA to arrange a meeting due to complaints from residents simply trying to understand the plan. He shared that FEMA declined the request, “I’ve never seen a federal agency say we’re going to roll out a new plan, not a law, by the way, this is an administrative policy being administered by FEMA through the National Flood Insurance Program, and when they rolled it out there’s no rationale about how they were rating people’s communities where they had flood protection,” he said, “When we said FEMA, we would like to talk with the local officials who are trying to figure this out so you can explain what you’re doing, they said we’re not going to do it. That’s not acceptable.” 

Hank Babin III, Agent/Broker at Logan Babin Real Estate in Houma, mentioned during the question and answer session that FEMA made a trip to present to local realtors about Risk Rating 2.0. He shared that they were surprised by some things that were presented, “I asked if they ever studied the affordability of this and they said they did not…they said they were not tasked with affordability and Congress never authorized a study for affordability, so they don’t have any idea whether people can afford it or not. I think everybody has heard the term redlining as a predatory living practice. I kind of view this as ‘blue lining’; it’s a predatory insurance practice that’s going on right now.”

 Babin went on to share that the data FEMA has about real-world situations is incorrect, “My father got his flood insurance renewal certificate just the other day and they don’t even look at what the actual elevation is of his slab. They estimated it as 2.5 feet, but he has a flood certificate of 10 feet of elevation. So if their data is incorrect and they’re not going to talk to you about it, I just don’t understand how it’s going to continue to go on,” he said.

Scalise responded, “Yes, it’s devastating to low-income people. They won’t show us the methodology they use. When you talk in terms of data, we’ve also gotten very mixed results on where they’re getting their data from, but this is completely administrative. Congress didn’t even require them to do this. This is something they came up with on their own. Again, this is something that was supposed to roll out a few years ago, but Congress has been able to hold FEMA off on doing it because it wasn’t ready for prime time then, and it’s still not ready for prime time. That’ll continue to be a topic of discussion.”

Another issue that affects Louisiana and the nation as a whole is the battle in the oil and gas industry. Gulf coast states share revenue from the drilling within the states. The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) has been driving legislation for revenue sharing in the Gulf of Mexico. Scalise noted that local officials, including Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove and Lafourche Parish President Archie Chiasson, continue to fight for revenue sharing. He said, “We need to lift the cap on GOMESA because it is limited by law on how much we can get from offshore revenue.” He then said that continuing to produce energy in America to have the revenue to share is under attack, “We’re having a lot of conversations locally about making sure that we can increase the cap and include things like wind energy. There is interest right now about having wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico and I strongly support those efforts,” he said.

Scalise is working on legislation that would govern how to lease wind energy. Similar to lease sales for oil drilling, he wants to work on revenue sharing because he said it is a key component like oil and gas production. “Right now, the imminent challenge is just getting more production and getting lease sales moving forward. This has, unfortunately, been a fight with the Biden administration since he took office where he immediately started putting a halt on a lot of different American energy projects and you’ve seen this really cascade into higher gas prices across the country.” The national average gas price is around $4.80 a gallon which Scalise said it’s because they’ve limited production in America. He shared that the government is also betting on countries around the world, “The president is getting ready to go to Saudi Arabia to beg them to produce more oil. Russia is still providing us oil because they shut off the spigots in the United States. No new lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico even though the law states we’re supposed to have those. These have been the challenges that not only affect us down here in Louisiana, but it’s having a national impact on inflation. It’s not only one of the biggest drivers of inflation, but it’s the biggest driver of higher gas prices, because now we have turned over the country’s energy security.”

Scalise stated he does not understand the logic of decreasing American energy production for environmental reasons because American production is more sufficient and has a lower carbon footprint than other countries. “We’re still using oil. We’re using more oil than we did a year ago! We’re just not getting it from America. Is it because Russia produces it better? No! Actually, Russia produces more carbon to produce oil than we do because we have better standards than anyone around the world,” he passionately stated, “You should be doing more energy production in America, not less.”

On the topic of security, the heated topic of gun violence was on the Congressman’s agenda. He said he talked to his colleague, Representative Tony Gonzales, who represents the area where the Uvalade school shooting took place. “It’s heartbreaking anytime you see something like that,” Scalise said,’’ but what you want to talk about is how it affects people on the ground…To the families who are impacted whose kids were killed, we pray for them. Local law enforcement is having internal struggles too. It’s hurting everybody on the ground, and I know the first reaction is they have to have some bill we can pass to make it all go away. I wish it were that simple, and I think most people know, it’s not that simple. If there was some bill that would take away guns from this group of people or that group of people. I’ve seen this before, it sounds good sometimes, but if you look at the realities of it, the root problem is what we’re not dealing with. Why are kids doing it?”

He shared about a situation last week where a kid in Burkley had plans to blow up his school using bombs, “No one is suggesting we ban fertilizer, but what happened there that didn’t happen in Uvalde…is that people saw something and they didn’t just keep it to themselves,” he said, “We have to help people recognize that in almost every mass shooting, somebody knew it was going to happen before, and either they did or didn’t say anything to authorities. In most cases, when they say something to authorities, they are able to stop it.”

Scalise believes that conversations with kids about the issues are not happening and there is not enough focus on hardening schools. He said he is having conversations with his colleagues in Washington D.C. about the issues, and they don’t all point straight to gun control. He said the conversations are about the bigger challenges that can be solved without going for the rights of law-abiding citizens. “How can we figure out why kids are doing these things and how can we stop them before they do it,” he asked the crowd,” We need to be talking about what the root of the cause is because we had guns, we had AR-15s decades ago, they just never had shootings. I know this isn’t a big part of discussions happening today and I think it should be, but decades ago we also had prayer in school. They kicked out a lot of the things that ultimately eroded society to the point that a kid thinks it’s okay to go kill a bunch of his fellow classmates. We have to get back to the root cause of this.”