Local lawmakers’ pre-filings a mixed bag

Louis P. ‘Smitty’ Smith Jr.
March 24, 2010
Lights go out at South Terrebonne High
March 26, 2010
Louis P. ‘Smitty’ Smith Jr.
March 24, 2010
Lights go out at South Terrebonne High
March 26, 2010

The arrival of spring can mean only one thing in Louisiana – it’s time for lawmakers to reconvene in Baton Rouge.

Monday marks the start of the 2010 Regular Legislative Session. The session is slated to end June 21.

As of press time, members of the House had filed 1,230 bills. Meanwhile, the Senate will address 677 pre-filed measures.

In this non-fiscal year, local lawmakers are pitching everything from abolishing BESE (Louisiana Board of Elementary & Secondary Education) to requiring the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office to provide dental insurance to certain retired deputies.

The following is a compilation of measures Tri-parish area senators and representatives have pre-filed for this Legislative session.

Sen. Norby Chabert (D-Houma) District 20

Sen. Norby Chabert is about to enter his first term representing District 20 in the state Senate after winning August’s election.

“I’m very excited to be serving at such a critical time in our state’s history,” said Chabert. “It’s been quite some time since the legislature has been tasked with being the stewards over such a difficult budgetary situation.”

As of press time, Chabert pre-filed two bills for the 2010 Regular Legislative Session. The first of which is a bill proposing that 10 percent of fees collected from charter boat fishing guide licenses be used for promotion of the charter boat industry and fishery protection.

Currently, 50 percent of the fees go to enforcement of laws governing finfish, 10 percent for the Louisiana Recreational Fishing Development Board and 40 percent for administration.

The second bill Chabert is proposing removes the South Louisiana Wetland Center within the Dept. of State from the commissioners in Terrebonne Parish. Instead, Chabert would like to allow the governing authority of Terrebonne Parish and the commission to jointly or separately solicit and accept funds to achieve the center’s purpose.

“Due to the extreme budget crisis nature of the upcoming session, I’m going to play defense more than I’m going to play offense,” he said. “Granted I do not serve on the finance committee, but there are only certain areas that we can cut – health care, education – so it’s going to be extremely difficult for education and health care to escape unscathed.”

Chabert said that an important issue in the upcoming session will be Gov. Jindal’s proposal to make Louisiana’s budget cuts less severe.

This bill would change the percentage the Governor can make cuts from five to 10 percent.

“The budget is by far the most looming issue that’s facing our state right now,” said Chabert. “It is a crisis, can’t be termed as anything else right now.”

Chabert added that Louisiana has traditionally generated its revenue through tax collections and royalties via oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, he said, sales tax collections are currently down.

“People aren’t spending their money,” said Chabert. “It’s a very uncertain economic climate. We’ve been sort of insulated here in Louisiana due to the robust nature of our oil and gas economy, however Louisiana can’t just make it on oil and gas revenue alone, and we’re seeing that now.”

• SB498: Fish/Fishing – Provides relative to fees collected from the sale of charter boat fishing guide licenses.

• SB562: Secretary of State – Provides relative to the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center.

Sen. D. A. “Butch” Gautreaux (D-Morgan City) District 21

From texting while driving to new rules on public officials’ retirement, Sen. Butch Gautreaux is taking it all on this session. Although still in the preliminary stages, the senator has already filed almost 20 bills, dealing with multiple facets.

Everyone knows that texting and driving are a deadly combination. For officials, it’s now or never.

“I’ve had some angry responses, but by and large I have received much more support for the bill,” said Gautreaux. “I’m doing the bill because someone has to.”

The efforts of SB13 are also clear-cut. If passed, public officials could be paying back, or not receiving, a large portion of their retirement earnings if they are accused of a crime.

“I think that if a public official breaches the public trust, he should get all that’s coming to him,” noted Gautreaux. “That’s including making restitution to injured parties. If someone is convicted of public corruption, it is obvious that they are headed to jail and their earning ability is lost.

“If they receive a public retirement, there is a source to return the money to the rightful owner, most likely a government agency,” he continued. “It just makes sense to me.”

In a time of financial crisis, Gautreaux is also aiming to put caps on the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), something that failed last year.

“Louisiana can’t afford the exponential growth of the program. Had my bill been accepted last year, the State would be saving millions of dollars,” he touted. “I believe that it is never too late to do the right thing. To ask that the student or parent pay 10 percent of the tuition bill is more than reasonable.”

The last fiscal year, Louisiana shelled out about $1.33 billion to four State retirement systems, according to Gautreaux. During this session, the senator hopes things will change as he takes the lead in trying to strengthen the systems and reduce spending.

“Like everything worth doing, it will come with some pain,” he said.

• SB9: Traffic – Makes texting while driving a motor vehicle a primary offense.

• SB13: Retirement Benefits – Allows garnishment of Louisiana public retirement or pension system, plan, or fund benefits of an elected official to pay fines or restitution imposed for a felony associated with his office.

• SB52: Probation/Parole – Provides for changes in the qualifications needed to serve on the parole board.

• SB58: Retirement Credit – Allows members of the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System to purchase service credit for purposes of retirement eligibility.

• SB76: Parochial Employees Retirement – Limits the ability of certain employees and employers to participate in the Parochial Employees’ Retirement System.

• SB84: Parochial Employees Retirement – Requires any employer who exits the system to pay its portion of the liabilities.

• SB85: Parochial Employees Retirement – Establishes a range for employee contributions to be set by the board of trustees for Plans A and B.

• SB86: TOPS – Establishes a cap on TOPS award amounts.

• SB100: Parochial Employees Retirement – Provides for a five-year final average compensation period relative to the Parochial Employees’ Retirement System.

• SB101: Legislative Powers/Functions – Provides with respect to the election of the president and president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker and speaker pro tempore of the House of Representatives.

• SB102: Legislative Powers/Functions – Constitutional Amendment to provide with respect to the election of the presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

• SB119: Parochial Employees Retirement – Provides for funding of the Parochial Employees’ Retirement System.

• SB134: Retirement Systems – Provides relative to the Public Retirement Systems’ Actuarial Committee.

• SB191: Retirement Systems – Provides relative to compliance with applicable federal tax qualification requirements for Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana, Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System, and State Police Pension and Retirement System.

• SB230: Health/Accident Insurance – Provides for increasing the termination age for children under health and accident policies to age 26.

• SB594: Retirement Systems – Relative to public retirement systems, provides relative to investments.

• SB599: Coastal Protection/Res FD – Provides that no more than five percent of the federal revenues generated from Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas activity may be used for administrative costs or fees.

• SB602: Retirement Systems – Relative to Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana, and Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System, places restrictions on participation in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan.

• SB632: Retirement Systems – Provides a regular schedule for permanent benefit increases for retirees of the state retirement systems.

Rep. Damon J. Baldone (D-Houma) Senate Districts 20 and 21

Rep. Damon Baldone’s focus on the judicial process should be evident this year, as he has already filed nearly 25 bills, a large portion of which deals with the state’s correctional facilities, criminal conduct and juveniles.

Baldone will also be fighting to save some of the area’s educational institutions.

“This biggest thing I’d like to accomplish is make sure we try to protect [Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center, Nicholls State University and L.E. Fletcher Technical Community College],” he explained. “It’s not looking good, the administration is fighting us. We made some [budget cuts] last year that we were able to do. I think this year it’s going to be much more severe and it’s going to desperately impact the recovery we have in this area, as well as the rest of the state.

“It’s going to kill us,” Baldone claimed.

Certain employees in the public school sector could see a salary increase if HB561 passes, which dedicates $5,000 in supplemental money yearly to educational diagnosticians that hold a valid Louisiana teaching certificate, a state diagnostician certificate and the Nationally Certified Educational Diagnostician credential.

The Department of Public Safety has also been on the grind.

Among Baldone’s largest strides in the public safety arena is pushing for criminal consequences against those who tamper with surveillance systems. HB123 creates the crime of “…tampering with surveillance, accounting, inventory, or monitoring systems,” according to the bill’s text.

Fines would not exceed $1,000 and individuals likely would not get more than a year behind bars.

However, the piece of legislature “…provides for increased penalties of a fine of not more than $2,000, imprisonment with or without hard labor for not more than two years, or both, if the system is located on the premises of a correctional facility.”

Reforming the Terrebonne Juvenile Justice Center tops the representative’s list. “I did profile some bills,” noted Baldone. “We had no standards for [juvenile] detention centers in Louisiana.”

Along with the lack of standards: problems. But the situation can be fixed, said Baldone.

As part of the package, HB1015 would introduce nationally recognized standards that ensure detainees have access to educational services, vocational training and life-skills training.

If passed, HB655 could create a pilot program in Terrebonne Parish aimed at constructing dormitory-style facilities to accommodate juveniles. The “community” would focus on long-term rehabilitation, education and personal growth.

• HB22: Criminal/Capital Punish – Deletes the requirement that all witnesses to the execution of a death sentence shall be Louisiana citizens.

• HB23: Corrections – Adds component hardware of telecommunications equipment to the definition of “contraband.”

• HB36: Corrections/Prisoners – Prohibits maximum custody prisoners convicted and sentenced by another state from being housed in local jails.

• HB93: Appropriations/Judgment – Appropriates funds for payment of judgment against DOTD in the suit entitled “Robin Bergeron, et al v. State of Louisiana, et al.”

• HB105: Criminal/Procedure – Amends pre-sentence investigation provisions to include the defendant’s pretrial and post conviction disciplinary records.

• HB123: Crime – Creates the crime of tampering with surveillance, accounting, inventory or monitoring systems.

• HB167: Criminal/Sentencing – Provides for the earning of pre-conviction “good time” diminution of sentence.

• HB263: Children/Support – Provides for the transfer of certain child support cases when DSS is no longer providing services.

• HB298: Motor Vehicles – Allows persons riding bicycles on a roadway, which includes an improved shoulder, the option of riding on the improved shoulder.

• HB385: Courts/Criminal – Provides that the court shall advise criminal defendants of certain rights using a uniform form.

• HB502: Crime – Creates and provides penalties for the crime of fire-raising in a correctional facility.

• HB510: Controlled Substance – Amends provisions of certain criminal offenses to prohibit driving when the offender is under the influence of a drug or drugs and defines “drug.”

• HB545: Fishing/Commercial – Provides that the season for commercial take of speckled trout closes when the annual quota has been reached.

• HB549: Criminal/Process – Authorizes the collection and use of electronic signatures of criminal offenders.

• HB561: Schools/Employees – Provides that certain educational diagnosticians who hold a valid La. teaching certificate, state educational diagnostician certification, and the Nationally Certified Educational Diagnostician (NCED) credential are eligible to receive an annual salary supplement of $5,000 (subject to appropriation of funds).

• HB562: Law Enforcement/Officers – Expands the crime of disarming a peace officer to include the taking of all forms of law enforcement equipment.

• HB563: Criminal/Sentencing – Creates the Lafourche Parish Pre-trial Home Incarceration Program.

• HB575: Motor Vehicle/Dismantlers – Prohibits a dismantler and parts recycler, motor vehicle crusher, or scrap metal processor from requiring the seller of a motor vehicle to remove the gas tank or tires from the motor vehicle.

• HB582: Health Care/Facilities – Excludes podiatrists and orthopedists from certain requirements relative to the state purchase of prostheses, orthoses and related services from accredited facilities.

• HB655: Juveniles – Creates a pilot program in Terrebonne Parish relative to juvenile detention.

• HB689: Auctions/Auctioneers – Prohibits an auctioneer from accepting a bid from a person he knows to be placing a false bid or offer to buy with the intent to inflate the bid amounts [and more].

• HB936: Student/Home Study – Removes requirement that certain students in approved home study programs provide evidence of current immunization against meningococcal disease.

• HB949: Public Records – Provides for accessibility of records of criminal convictions through the La. Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information and law enforcement agencies.

• HB975: Government Organization – Transfers the S. La. Wetlands Discovery Center and commission from the Dept. of State to the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries.

• HB1015: Juveniles – Provides relative to juvenile justice facilities and procedures.

Rep. Sam Jones (D-Franklin) District 50

Rep. Sam Jones is about to contend with policymaking heavyweights this legislative session, as he tackles sweeping education reforms.

“I am concentrating on trying to re-establish funding cuts for our elementary and secondary education, higher education, technical education and community colleges,” he said. “I was totally miffed by the Governor’s budget cuts directed at our technical colleges which weekly turn out skilled workers that immediately enter our work force. These budget cuts are destroying our recovery and retraining efforts.”

Teens under the age of 17 could also face different music when it comes to dropping out of high school. “I have drafted a bill to increase the age that teens can drop out of high school and enter a GED curriculum from age 16 to age 17,” Jones explained.

Few teens that sign up for the GED program complete it, he noted.

“Along with as high as a 40 percent drop out rate, in some places our educational efforts are truly failing to produce the next generation of adults that are ready for the next part of their education or to effectively enter the work force,” said Jones.

Public works projects are also in the mix.

“As a member of the Transportation Committee I have been successful in getting additional state road overlays and improvements totaling over $16 million, which includes Catherine Street in Patterson at over $2 million; La 87 from Centerville to Franklin at $5 million; and the lone entrance in Jeanerette at $8 million,” he noted.

Jones will be pulling for the completion of an overpass at La 85 and Highway 90, which could help open up several miles of interstate grade highway from Youngsville to the Wax Lake Outlet.

“My other biggest concern is the devastating cuts to funding to our local hospitals, Teche Regional, Franklin Foundation and Iberia General in the western part of my district,” claimed Jones. “Many of these cuts in reimbursement for services to the uninsured will cause private insurance rates to go up to cover the shortages.”

• HB79: Crime/Assault – Creates the crime of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle upon a peace officer.

• HB81: Wildlife & Fisheries Dept. – Adds membership to the Lake Fausse Point and Grand Avoille Cove Advisory Board and provides for their jurisdiction over Lake Dautrieve.

• HB88: Boats/Ships/Vessels – Provides for registration of antique boats.

• HB154: Banks/Banking – Allows the consumer to choose a closing attorney or title company in certain real estate transactions.

• HB217: Sales/Tobacco Trade – Provides for changes to permit fees on wholesale dealers of tobacco products.

• HB277: Districts/Special – Creates the St. Mary Hydroelectric Authority.

• HB416: Sales/Tobacco Trade – Provides for fees with respect to tobacco products.

• HB527: Cemetery/Historical – Provides for the creation of the Louisiana Historic Cemetery Preservation Act.

• HB530: Sales/Tobacco Trade – Provides for changes to the sale of tobacco products.

• HB579: Tax/Taxation – Requires the secretary of the Dept. of Revenue to waive surety bond requirements for terminal operator licensees under certain circumstances.

• HB648: Student/Schedule Attendance – Repeals provisions relative to permitting certain children to withdraw from school.

• HB685: Student/School Attendance – Raises minimum age at which certain children may attend BESE-approved adult education programs rather than attending school from 16 to 17.

• HB694: Levees – Transfers books and records of the Atchafalya Basin Levee District to the St. Mary Levee District.

Rep. Joe Harrison (D-Labadieville) District 51

Rep. Joe Harrison is one of the region’s more prolific lawmakers this session, pre-filing 43 bills. The measures, which are certain to draw fire from both sides of the aisles seek to limit TOPS and require recipients of the state-paid college fund to repay monies they receive should they flunk out of college within their first two years of advanced studies.

Harrison also has pre-filed a bill that would see school superintendents elected to the post, school board members’ term limited and BESE disbanded.

The state representative was unavailable for comment at press time. Below are his pre-filings:

• HB74: Children/Custody – Provides for shared custody implementation orders.

• HB75: Children/Support – Provides for the rendering of an accounting.

• HB257: Schools/Districts – Provides relative to academic tutoring for certain schedule athletes in public elementary and secondary schools.

• HB311: Appropriations – Provides funding to the Department of Education to implement Act 952 of the 2003 Regular Session relative to speech-language pathologists and audiologists.

• HB366: Medicaid – Requires the Dept. of Health and Hospitals to amend state plan for La. Children and Youth Health Insurance Program to provide for the reimbursement of certain health care services provided at school

• HB387: State Agencies – Requires itemized monthly spending reports to be maintained on a Web site established and maintained by the commissioner of administration.

• HB401: Schools/Employees – (Constitutional Amendment) Exempts public post-secondary education tuition amounts and mandatory fees from requirements for imposing a new or increasing an existing tax or fee.

• HB409: Schools/Boards – Provides term limits for members of city, parish and other local public school boards.

• HB459: Public Service Commission – (Constitutional Amendment) Provides for changes to the powers, duties, limitations and processes of the Public Service Commission

• HB461: Telecommuncations – Provides for regulation of telecommunications by the La. Public Service Commission

• HB486: Schools/Employees – Requires school guidance counselors to complete academic profiles for ninth grade students.

• HB487: Government Organization – Provides that the lieutenant governor shall serve as commissioner of administration.

• HB 488: Schools/Boards – Provides relative to continuing education requirements for school board members.

• HB489: BESE – (Constitutional Amendment) Abolishes BESE, transfers board duties, functions and responsibilities to the state superintendent and provides for the superintendent to be appointed by the governor.

• HB490: Student/Loans/Scholarships – Establishes for a specified period of time a maximum dollar amount for a TOPS award.

• HB495: Property/Rights – Provides for the ownership of monetary compensation from the sequestration of carbon.

• HB507: Health – Restructures the Health Education Authority of La.

• HB511: Insurance/Health-ACCID – Provides for timely combined medical billing for a single inpatient or outpatient surgery or other medical procedure.

• HB512: Insurance/Rates – Provides that the only credit factor that may be used in determining insurance premiums is that relating to the payment of insurance premiums.

• HB600: Government Organization – Abolishes the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Department of Social Services and creates the Department of Health and Social Services.

• HB698: Insurance/Automobile – Prohibits arbitration or any other type of binding mediation by automobile insurers for certain purposes.

• HB770: Higher Education – Requires each public college and university to readmit its graduates, without charging tuition and fees, if such a graduate cannot find or looses employment because his degree did not prepare him for employment in a profession related to his degree.

• HB783: Retirement/Teachers – Relative to the Teachers’ Retirement System of La. (TRSL), provides with respect to unused annual and sick leave.

• HB874: Hunting/Licenses – Provides relative to the issuance of licenses and stamps for hunting wild turkey and duck.

• HB875: Fishing/Shrimp – Creates the La. Shrimp Task Force with the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries.

• HB883: Wildlife & Fisheries Secretary – Allows the secretary of the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries to close an area to limit the spread of disease.

• HB886: Environment – Provides for litter abatement and enforcement and education programs.

• HB890: Wildlife & Fisheries Secretary – Authorizes the secretary of the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries to develop certification standards for Louisiana wild fish and seafood including wild-caught shrimp.

• HB905: Student/Loans/Scholarships – Provides relative to the grand point average required to obtain certain TOPS awards.

• HB977: Minerals/Leases – Provides relative to the administration and management of the state’s mineral resources.

• HB994: Student/Loans-Scholarship – Relative to TOPS, provides, under specified circumstances, for the repayment by a student of an award amount paid on his behalf by the state during the first two award years.

• HB1005: Insurance/Group-State – Provides for the establishment of a program to address the high rate of obesity in Louisiana.

• HB1006: Education Department – Provides that the state superintendent of education shall be elected rather than appointed.

• HB1008: Insurance/Automobile – Provides relative to compensating an owner of a vehicle for the depreciation in the value of that vehicle after it has been repaired.

• HB1026: Energy/Drilling – Extends the Royalty Relief Dry Hole Credit Program until 2015.

• HB1049: Schools/Boards – Provides relative to public/private partnerships between school boards and the private sector.

• HB1072: Higher Education – Provides relative to higher education accountability

• HB 1092: Legislative Affairs – Provides for a district office allowance for each member to be used for office expenses and legislative assistants.

• HB1130: Animal/Horses – Creates the Louisiana Performance Horse Promotion Act.

• HB1166: Districts/Special: Allows members of a water district board to receive per diem.

• HB1181: Health Care – Provides for the First Responder Financial Stabilization and Enhancement Act.

• HB1205: Employment – Creates the Louisiana Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2010.

Rep. Gordon Dove (R-Houma) District 52

Rep. Gordon Dove is on the lighter end of the stick and has filed six bills. However, big things could be in store for the area’s coastal restoration efforts, despite every legislator’s downfall – budget constraints.

“I’ve put in a request through capital outlay for $15 million for [Morganza to the Gulf],” noted Dove.

The Costal Protection and Restoration Authority is backing that initiative, he said.

“Anything can happen in the legislature, but we’re expecting that to pass.”

The culinary institute at Nicholls State University could also see a boost with an allotted $6.5 million, which was put in the governor’s package.

“The culinary institute is important because with the hundreds and hundreds of supply boats [and] utility boats, they all use cooks and chefs, so it’s a jobs program,” explained Dove.

While the bill hasn’t yet been filed, Dove said directing 10 percent of certain monies to area shrimpers and processors – which is also backed by the governor – is in the works. He plans to pre-file the bill before the beginning of the legislative session.

• HB506: Sheriffs – Requires the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office to pay premium costs for dental insurance for certain retired sheriffs and deputy sheriffs in Terrebonne Parish.

• HB815: Minerals – Provides for wells drilled within a drilling unit.

• HB835: Property/Public – Provides relative to redemption of property adjudicated to the state for nonpayment of taxes.

• HB842: Property/Public – Provides for procedures for sale of property adjudicated to the state for nonpayment of taxes for tax years 1880 through 1973.

• HB956: Districts/Economic Development – Provides for nominations to the board of commissioners for the Terrebonne Economic Development Authority.

• HB1090: Coastal Commission – Provides relative to various aspects of the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.

Rep. Jerry Gisclair (D-Larose) District 54

Rep. Jerry Gisclair looks to be slightly more aggressive with 10 proposed bills for legislation, but Gisclair sees the budget as an obstacle as well.

“The problem that we’re all facing is the lack of money,” said Gisclair. “Because there’s no money, unless it’s a bill that lights the world on fire, it’s going to be tough to pass.”

Gisclair said any bill with a fiscal note on it would have a tough time passing.

“I got a feeling we’re going to see a bunch of legislation that’s feel good legislation and not a heck of lot is going to get accomplished because of a lack of money,” said Gisclair.

Among Gisclair’s ten proposed bills, he feels he will have a tough time passing three.

The first of which amends the crime of vehicular homicide to include the driver failing to maintain control of the vehicle by falling asleep.

“Driving on Louisiana Highways is a privilege, and if I’m dead sleepy, I should not be getting in a two ton vehicle and be driving that thing on the highway,” Gisclair said.

Gisclair’s bill proposes a prison sentence up to five years for falling asleep at the wheel leading to a crash that kills someone (HB 628).

“But it’s going to be the discretion of the district attorney and judge,” said Gisclair. “If the DA says this person was a nice guy and has a clean record, no alcohol in blood and it was really an accident, well I don’t have a problem if the judge says you don’t have any time to serve.”

The next bill Gisclair thinks will be up for debate is his attempts to require companies who dig canals for drilling purposes to fill the canal back up with original material or better material (HB 814).

He foresees opposition from the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.

Gisclair’s third bill looks to require any new pipeline being laid to be strong enough to support the weight of the 100-year levee (HB 844).

“If [the state] lets somebody build and they build a pipeline and we come back and put a levee on top of it, the state have to pay for the pipeline relocation,” said Gisclair. “So I’m trying to save the state some money ahead of time.”

Gisclair feels his other seven bills are local bills that should not face much opposition in the legislature.

• HB182: Transportation – Provides relative to free and unhampered passage on the Tomey J. Doucet Bridge for emergency vehicles.

• HB281: Fishing/Commercial – Requires vessel owner information to be included on the commercial receipt form (trip ticket).

• HB540: Levees – Provides relative to the appropriation procedures of the South Lafourche Levee District.

• HB628: Crime – Provides with respect to the crime of vehicular homicide.

• HB636: Bridges/Ferries – Authorizes free and unhampered passage on the Tomey J. Doucet Bridge for certain emergency vehicles of the Town of Grand Isle.

• HB656: Waterways/Lakes – Authorizes the Lafourche Game and Fish Commission to govern, regulate, and control Lake Long.

• HB814: Coastal/Recoastal Zone – Requires restoration of canals authorizes by a coastal permit.

• HB816: Insurance/Automobile – Requires that law enforcement access an electronic database to determine compliance with the compulsory motor vehicle liability security law.

• HB844: Coastal/Recoastal Zone – Provides for standards and specifications new pipelines laid in the coastal zone.

• HB954: Police/Port – Allows for the Grande Isle Port Commission to appoint and pay port and harbor police.

Rep. Jerome Dee Richard (I-Thibodaux) District 55

“I don’t know if there’s much I’m looking forward to this session,” said Rep. Jerome Richard. Among numerous budget cuts that have hit nearly any agency one can fathom, legislators are preparing for battle. But it appears to be a gloomy war.

“I guess I’m just looking forward to seeing how we’re going to handle the cuts. Hopefully we’re going to get some leadership from the governor and what he wants to do in healthcare – especially healthcare – and higher education,” explained Richard.

Major policymakers will also be looking to the governor to decide where things are headed next year, he added. “That’s going to be the key.”

Richard has only filed a handful of bills. “Nothing major,” he said.

However, among the few, HB270 stands atop the list. The bill, if passed, would allow colleges to charge full-time students based on the amount of credit hours they take over 12. In most cases, full-time students pay a flat rate and can typically take as many credit hours as they would like, up to a maximum of 21.

“My bill is going to allow universities to charge for 15 hours if you take 15 hours, which is the way it used to be a few years back,” explained Richard.

Exceptions to the law could be made in cases of hardship, according to text in the bill.

The representative is pushing eight pieces of legislation.

• HB96: Motor Vehicle/License Plate – Creates the special prestige license plate to be known as “State Employee Retired” license plate.

• HB171: Legislative Sessions – Prohibits the introduction or consideration of matters not related to appropriations, the capital budget, taxes, fees, revenue, and bonds during sessions convening in odd-numbered years.

• HB189: Retirement/State Employees – Provides for early retirement of members of the La. State Employees’ Retirement System (LASERS) who have attained age 50 and have at least 10 years of service credit.

• HB270: College/Universities – Authorizes the boards of supervisors of the LSU System, the Southern University System, and the University of Louisiana System to impose additional per credit hour tuition charges on students enrolled in more than 12 credit hours per semester or eight credit hours per quarter.

• HB659: Districts/Fire Protection – Provides a definition of “parcel” for the levy of a parcel fee within Fire Protection District 8-C in Lafourche Parish.

• HB838: Motor Vehicle/Dismantlers – Requires every dismantler and parts recycler, motor vehicle crusher, or scrap metal processor that purchases a motor vehicle without the gas tank at the time of the sale to deliver an originally signed report to the chief of police of the municipality or the sheriff of the parish in which the sale occurred.

• HB1162: Elections/Recall – Requires notification of certain actions relative to the certification of a recall petition to the public officer whose recall is being sought.

• HB1200: Election Code – Provides relative to procedures for registration and voting for persons in the U.S. Service and persons residing outside of the U.S.

Members of Ellender Memorial High School’s Class of 2009 celebrate graduation in this file photograph. Rep. Joe Harrison has pre-filed bills for the upcoming Legislative session that would impose stricter guidelines on TOPS funding and change how school districts conduct business.

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