Legislators discuss upcoming session at Crowley luncheon
Among the Crowley Chamber board members and sponsors taking part in Monday’s legislative luncheon featuring Senator Dan Morrish and Representative Jack Montoucet were, from left, Jennifer Mixon, Justin Lee, Jude Sittig, Montoucet, Morrish, Gene Williams, Kerry Gibson, Holly Broussard and Chamber of Commerce CEO Amy Thibodeaux.
Judging by recent Crowley joint appearances by state Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, and state Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley, it is apparent that, despite their different party affiliations, both legislators believe that working together is the key to helping the people they represent.
“Jack and I work together to do what’s best for the people we represent,” said Morrish. “Democrat and Republican never enters into the picture.”
Both men joked about how nice it was to be speaking to the audience at The Ballroom.
“It’s nice to see so many friendly faces,” smiled Morrish. “As of March 10 (start of legislative session) they won’t be so friendly.”
According to Morrish, the major issues that the legislature will be facing are the budget which he described as “getting better — it is possible that we may have not deficit this year”; the Jindal educational reforms which he were recently ruled to be unconstitutional; the expansion of Medicaid; funding for coastal restoration projects; and a National Flood Insurance plan, which he described as being a necessity for “anyone who lives in a flood zone...not just those who live on the coast.”
“For the people in this area, Jack and I are going to look into the pontoon bridge in Estherwood, which has been a problem in the area for many years,” he added.
Montoucet followed and joked how he enjoys speaking after Morrish.
“I love following Blade,” he said with a smile. “He gives the lay of he land and I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.
“We have to provide you with what you elected us to do,” said Montoucet.
As he did during his speech to the Crowley Lions Club last week, Montoucet stressed his desire for companies to look into replacing their older pipelines.
“Some of these were built when farmers were tilling their field using horses,” he said. “Today we use tractors and other heavy equipment and it puts these pipelines that were built during the 20s and 30s at risk. They didn’t bury them deep enough back then.
“Have any of you seen a map of the pipelines in Acadia Parish?” he asked. “It looks like a spiderweb.”
Montoucet acknowledged that his stance has been met with criticism by oil companies.
“I’m not very popular with the oil companies,” he said. “I realize their importance to our state’s economy but I also have concerns for the people I represent.”
The men then took questions from the audience.
The first was in regards to how much it would cost the parish for the pontoon bridge project.
“That would depend on whether Capital Outlay could be used, which would only require that we pay 25 percent,” replied Morrish. “If not we would have to look into pursuing other methods of funding.”
Suzy Webb asked whether the project would require straightening out the roads headed north towards I-10.
“We will have to get a Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) study to assess that,” said Morrish.
“Will I still be alive by then,” quipped Paul Broussard as both legislators laughed.
Scott Schumacher asked about the budget of the state’s technological college.
“We recently lost one of the best truck driving program’s in the country,” he added. “Should we be concerned with the new alternative energy program that has recently been implemented?”
Montoucet, who was instrumental in developing the partnership between Cleco and University of Louisiana at Lafayette, sounded emphatic when he said “no, we have to be compatible with other vo-tech centers.
“We’re fortunate in that we are seeing a whole new structuring taking place with our community college systems,” he said. “A new state program would help with funding and we’ll see things come around.”
“Jack and I hated to see that truck driving program taken away,” said Morrish. “But in a way they may have gotten punished for doing too good of a job. We got people fully trained in a six- to nine-week course which didn’t meet Pell Grant requirements. The only way South Louisiana Community College could have kept it would have been to charge $6,500.”
Michael Hensgens asked how involved Governor Bobby Jindal, who has been criticized for concentrating on a possible presidential run, would be in the upcoming session.
“He’s disengaged,” replied Morrish.
The event was sponsored by Cleco, Encore Healthcare and Rehab, and Southwind Senior Community.