Gisclair seeks safety, dredging bills in House

Several TPSB members under fire
May 13, 2014
Which came first, the turtle or the …
May 13, 2014
Several TPSB members under fire
May 13, 2014
Which came first, the turtle or the …
May 13, 2014

The scope of tasks Jerry “Truck” Gisclair works to achieve in the Legislature represents the diversity of his district, which spans central and south Lafourche, as well as the town of Grand Isle.

Serving in the House of Representatives since 2007, Gisclair has worked with the Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development Committee and Natural Resources and Environment Committee to bring results to his constituents in some of Louisiana’s southernmost parts.

His concerns to protect residents not only deal with coastal restoration and protection, but also issues “near and dear” to him when it comes to the safety of individuals on roadways.

In 2010, Gisclair presented a bill for tougher penalties when a car’s driver fails to maintain control of the vehicle by falling asleep. The representative said he introduced the bill for a family who was involved in a fatal crash outside of his Larose office.

“I have had to look at these crosses on side of the road for the past four or five years,” Gisclair said. “I brought up this bill for that mother and her two children in particular.”

Despite having the bill “crash and burn on the House floor” four years ago, Gisclair proposed the bill for consideration during this year’s legislative session, and it has been met with more acceptance as it moves for consideration by the Senate.

Under present law, penalties for the first offense of careless operation of a motor vehicle include a fine of no more than $175 and possible imprisonment for 30 days or less. Upon a driver’s second offense, offenders face a fine of no more than $500 and possible imprisonment for 90 days or less.

Gisclair’s bill calls for anyone who causes death or endangerment to another person by careless operation of a vehicle to serve no more than 250 hours of court-approved community service and have their license suspended for a period of two years.

Gisclair is pushing for tougher penalties, because “through their negligence, they cause someone’s life to end,” and he does not find it appropriate for them to get behind the wheel before a period of time shorter than two years.

“If someone falls asleep at the wheel and crosses the center line, it typically creates a head-on collision. They get charged with crossing the center line or reckless operation and they get a suspended or short jail sentence and a monetary fine,” he said. “They shouldn’t have the right to get behind the wheel of a car for some time.”

Also serving on the Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee, Gisclair said he works with the La. 1 Coalition to protect the roadway, which serves as a lifeline to lower parts of the parish.

During Hurricane Isaac, parts of La. Highway 1 collapsed between Port Fourchon and Grand Isle due to erosion from sandpits that were dug decades ago, Gisclair said.

To help protect the roadway, which also serves as an evacuation route, the legislator proposed House Bill 397, which “prohibits dredging of sand pits or excavating near a state highway in certain areas of the coastal zone.”

“What I wanted to do was put a buffer zone so that no dredging can take place within 300 feet of La. (Highway) 1 in order to protect the base of that highway,” Gisclair said.

While he originally pushed for the buffer zone to extend 500 feet, he compromised for 300 feet after meeting resistance from a landowners association.

The proposed law would prohibit dredging or excavating near the roadway south of Golden Meadow, unless the excavating is related to projects such as drainage, utility, communication, pipeline or fiber optics, which are permissible with a coastal use permit. Any excavation associated with pipeline projects has to be refilled upon completion of the project.

The bill is expected to make its way to the Senate floor this week.

Serving an area deeply rooted in its culture and history, Gisclair said he works to find “a delicate balance” between preserving the culture of Louisiana’s residents while fostering growth offered by the oil and gas industry.

Since his election, Gisclair has seen various improvements in hurricane protection, but he expects more development despite the lack of funding seen by the parish’s levee districts.

“We are working with the CPRA (Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority) to provide extra funding to have minimal protection,” he said.

He pinpointed collaborations with Terrebonne Parish and the Morganza-to-the-Gulf Hurricane Protection Project to help better protect the northern and central parts of Lafourche.

Despite the amount of projects taking place in his district, Gisclair does not plan on running for re-election on his final eligibility term in 2016.

“I’ve put in eight years of service,” he said about the decision. “And I will continue to serve the remainder of this term.”

In the meantime, Gisclair will continue to focus on helping his constituents, whether it is through veteran’s affairs or health care advice.

“It goes way beyond having bills passed in the Legislature,” he said. “It’s about servicing your district and constituents who have a multitude of problems.”

Jerry Gisclair