Delegation credited for combined effort

What now? TEDA China presentation heads to parish council
July 3, 2012
Zeringue offers BIG picture on coastal restoration
July 3, 2012
What now? TEDA China presentation heads to parish council
July 3, 2012
Zeringue offers BIG picture on coastal restoration
July 3, 2012

Louisiana House of Representatives Speaker Chuck Kleckley told members of the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce that its delegation to Baton Rouge is among the state’s strongest.

“They do not waver,” Kleckley (R-Lake Charles) said last Tuesday at the Chamber’s monthly membership meeting. “You have one of the top delegations in the state of Louisiana [with] legislators that are very, very passionate about what they believe in.”

Kleckley offered a review of his first year as speaker, which saw policy makers wrestle with a $25.6 billion budget, education cuts and funding for coastal restoration, among other issues.

The House speaker said more than 2,000 bills were filed by the House during the past session, with more than 900 enacted or signed into law. Additionally, more than 700 resolutions were adopted by the legislature.

Budget issues included addressing a $225 million deficit this year and a $300 million shortfall for 2012-2013. Total spending was decreased by $66 million.

A construction-related budget was approved which offers $90 million in funding for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf project. “This was a significant achievement for this area,” the speaker said.

Kleckley said coastal protection and restoration will continue to be an issue into coming session and is an issue that needs immediate attention. “I will work with your delegation to make sure this is a priority.”

The speaker identified economic development as a passion for this Chamber of Commerce and chambers throughout the state, with Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes being two among four in the state that have unemployment levels below 5 percent.

“All-in-all, Terrebonne Parish ranks well below that state and national average on unemployment,” Kleckley said. “Other parishes would do well to look at what you are doing here and use that as an example.”

During the 2012 legislative session, the House adopted new competitive project and payroll incentive programs, one of which enhances payroll subsidies up to 15 percent to target manufacturing and durable goods producers.

“We also established a new corporate headquarters relocation program,” the speaker said. “This offers up to 25 percent [in tax breaks] over five years for companies that relocate headquarters to the state.”

Additionally, a proposed constitutional amendment and its companion bill, Act 871 and Act 499, allows Louisiana Economic Development and local governing authorities to extend property tax exemptions to target businesses. These sectors include corporate headquarters, distribution centers, research and development and digital media and software development centers. To qualify, corporations would have to invest at least $25 million and create 50 new, direct jobs.

Chamber President Billy Foster said he did not hear anything new from Kleckley, but appreciated the speaker’s support of Terrebonne Parish.

“A lot of the things that he has of interest are the same as ours, but we as a parish have unique needs,” Foster said. “I’m not sure our coastal restoration and protection are the same as his. I think our issues are a little more complicated, but it is still all about protection.”

“I do not envy the position of a Speaker of the House during the first year of a new term,” state Sen. Norby Chabert (R-Houma) said following Kleckley’s presentation. “The speaker did a good job at listening to both sides, but at the end of the day did what was right and practical for the taxpayers of Louisiana.”

Chabert said that although Kleckley represents a coastal area, the issues facing Calcasieu Parish involve protection issues and not the restoration concerns of Terrebonne Parish.

“Their marshes are sustainable,” Chabert said of Kleckley’s coastal parish. “Their barrier islands are intact. We have to deal with both restoration and protection, which makes our area very unique. We have a friend with Chuck Kleckley in terms of coastal restoration and protection.”

“[Kleckley] knows what he is doing and comes over well,” state Rep. Gordon Dove (R-Houma) said following the program. “He handled the session fine. We got a lot of money for coastal restoration and for Fletcher [Technical Community College]. He has been with us every step of the way and is a big part of us getting money.”

Freshman state Rep. Lenar Whitney (R-Houma) entered her initial legislative session admitting it would be a learning experience and offered comments reflecting on what she gained in addition to Kleckley’s presentation.

“I was very proud of this session,” Whitney said. “I thought it was very interesting and enjoyed it very much. I learned that you don’t have to always carry a bill to be effective. We passed a lot of bills. Some were necessary and some maybe not as much. The most important factor is the information that is given to us. You are given the pros and the cons of a situation, but the decisions were easy for me with no new taxes.”

Kleckley confirmed that this year’s legislative session was continuous, but said he views that as a sign of life. “We had some lively debate, but we needed it. It is only by that, that we can work together and move the region forward, which also means moving our state forward.”

Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Eric Sunstorm of The Chesapeake Group visits with state House of Representatives Speaker Chuck Kleckley at the chamber’s membership luncheon in Houma.