Gatti and Mills talk state senate runoff

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Ryan Gatti, left, and Robert Mills, right.

Ahead of the Louisiana Senate Dist. 36 runoff Nov. 16, incumbent Ryan Gatti (R-Bossier City) and primary leader Robert Mills (R-Benton) are sharing lessons learned.

In the Oct. 12 primary election, Mills had 48% of the vote while Gatti had 38%. Mattie Preston (D-Minden) was third with 14%.

Gatti said since the primary election, the runoff is taking shape around a unique issue.

“On March 21, 2018, Robert Mills was denied a $1.1 million tax exemption by the Bossier Police Jury. Mills admitted the exemption would be used to create one job. The police jury denied the outrageous request for corporate welfare,” Gatti said. “A few months later in May, he announced he was running for the Bossier-Webster state senate seat while still living in Southern Trace (in Shreveport). In June 2018, he bought an additional house in Bossier. In July 2019, he changed his voter registration card beating the one year deadline by 18 days.” 

Gatti added that if Mills wins the runoff, it will be the first time in the history of the Louisiana Senate that special interest moved someone in “at the last minute” and were successful.  

“Mills would be the first one in the history of the senate to announce for office and then move into the district. Usually it’s the other way around.”

Gatti said that he has lived in Bossier his entire life and knows the names and needs of the district.

“My opponent announced he was running, then moved here. He ran a very negative campaign against me to cover that up, but folks are seeing the light in the runoff,” he said. 

Mills said his priorities have not changed following the primary election.

“The people of Senate District 36 are unified in their desire for truly conservative representation and hopeful for economic prosperity such as President Trump has brought to the 49 other States. Louisiana seems to have dropped the ball in the last few years with bigger government, higher taxes and not much to show for it. My three main points of fiscal reform, education improvements and improving our legal climate remain on the front line of a long list of needs,” he said.

Mills said he learned that the district has the same wants — good jobs, investment in road and bridge infrastructure, safety and security, and good schools.

He added that the runoff can’t get here soon enough.

“What a pleasure it has been to meet so many good people that love northwest Louisiana and the whole state as much as I do. It is encouraging to see people wanting to make the changes needed in Senate District 36 and supporting the very good elected officials we currently have in the House of Representatives.” 

Below are profiles and bios from Gatti and Mills that ran in September ahead of the primary election.

Sen. Ryan Gatti grew up in Bossier Parish working at his father’s cattle farm and auto salvage business. For the last 18 years, Gatti has served northwest Louisiana as a Bossier based attorney and small business owner. He has served as President of the Bossier Bar Association since 2008. 

Gatti has authored 62 bills since he was sworn in and 21 became Acts and were signed into law by the Governor. He credits these bills and the ideas behind them to his constituents, having held over 65 town hall meetings to hear his constituents’ questions and concerns.

Gatti has served as the former vice-president of the Republican Party of Bossier, Louisiana Trustee on the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention since 2012.  He is currently a member of Cypress Baptist Church.

Gatti was co-valedictorian of his graduating class of Airline High School. He attended LSU and graduated in three years, where he was president of Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Ryan graduated from LSU Law School and was elected repeatedly to serve as president to his fellow law students. 

Ryan has been married to his wife Susan Gatti, Ph.D. for over 22 years. Together they have created their greatest accomplishments – their four daughters Katherine, Elizabeth, Rebecca and Charlotte. 

1. Why do you want to be a State Senator for the 36th Senatorial District?

We have worked very hard in difficult times to protect the values we hold dear in District 36.  Faith, Family and Friends has been our guiding priorities. Susan and I have spent thousands of hours in the district getting to know the real needs of the people we serve.  We have continued to work hard with anyone that holds our same values.  We will continue to fight to keep good paying jobs here.  I am glad to continue the work with keeping Fibrebond and other local companies here in Louisiana.  We will add to the infrastructure dollars being allocated to Northwest Louisiana.  The Barksdale Interchange and replacing Interstate 20 is a good start, but we must put politics aside and work to fix infrastructure.  It has been the greatest honor and most humbling experience to serve the folks I grew up around in the Senate.   

2. Tell me what your priorities will be for our area if elected?

First, protecting our Christian values. Fighting for prayer in school, for Christian businesses like ChristFit to remain free, fighting for Life and traditional family values. This is and has been our main priority. 

Secondly, securing the jobs we have here in our area.  We must protect the small business owners that employ over 95% of the employees in our area.  I have drafted legislation that was killed by special interest to stop giving handouts to the bottom and bailouts to the top.  We simply can’t put anymore stress on the businesses in our area. 

Lastly, reducing insurance rates.  Last session after a year of  study, a bill was pushed through committee that would not lower rates.  In 2016-2018 my bills to lower rates were killed in committee.  This study committee formed in 2018 was supposed to give the final answer on rate reductions.  The author allowed the committee to be populated by a strong majority of insurance lobbyists.  They met only three times and hid their expert reports from the legislature.  I read the bill and as a lawyer, noticed it had no provisions to lower rates.  The author would not allow amendments that would actually lower rates. The legislative committee decided that the bill had not been vetted and was designed to increase profits for big insurance and not reduce rates.   I will draft a bill that is actuarially sound and will reduce rates. 

3.  There are several issues that are important to Bossier residents. Transportation, education, economic development, infrastructure. How will you go about ensuring that these are addressed?

I will continue to work with leaders in our area to preserve and advance these issues. 

For example, we’ve had many accomplishments in the last four years.  I’ve drafted 62 bills and 21 have become law.  SB 33 made it a crime to sell baby parts from abortions.  This bill passed with 67 co-authors in my first 45 days in office and helped shut down the abortion clinic in Bossier.  I secured funding for the Barksdale Interchange by working with DOTD and the Governor’s Office.  This will increase the mission and scope of Barksdale and cut down on travel time for our airmen and their families.  I was honored to carry Katie Bug’s Law.  After losing our daughter in 2017, I could only admire the strength of the Grantham’s as they testified in Baton Rouge about their injustice.  I drafted and passed legislation helping foster kids who aged out of the system before they graduated.  Susan and I have made the plight of foster families and children a mission of our family.  We’ve held six luncheons at our house to bring more awareness each time to their situation.

Through a fair flat sales tax in 2016, we secured funding for the medical center in Shreveport, BPCC, TOPS and other important programs.  Our office helped usher the partnership at LSU Medical School in Shreveport to stabilize the medical school in our area.  I then voted against the 7 year $3.5 billion sales tax the Republican party was pushing in 2018, because we had promised the citizens we would reform the government, not kick the can down the road.  I received and still do receive criticism for this anti-tax vote from both parties. 

First responders asked our office to draft legislation on Cancer treatment and PTSD. Those bills faced stiff opposition from Big Insurance, but both bills passed.  I was honored to receive the Legislator of the Year Award from the Firefighter’s Association. 

DOTD could not rent equipment, they could only buy equipment.  This was delaying repairs of roads and bridges in my district.  So I drafted and passed a bill to allow them to rent expensive equipment. 

Demitric Evans, retired NFL great from Haynesville, asked me to author a bill requiring Driver’s Education Classes to cover the expectation and etiquette of what to do when you get pulled over.  Additionally, there was no cost to the state because BPSTIL in Bossier filmed the video with Troop G for free!

I have personally held over 65 town hall meetings all over the district.  These meetings allow for accountability and great ideas for legislation from constituents. 

– – – –

Born and raised in Shreveport, Robert Mills graduated from Byrd High School. He then attended LSU where he earned his BS in Business Administration (’76). 

After graduating college, Robert entered into a career in the oil, gas, and timber industry. In 1991, Robert joined Falco S&D as a crude buyer, and, in 1993 Calumet Lubricants Company lured him to join their team as Manager of Supply & Distribution. He was named vice president in 1995 and executive officer of the partnership in 1997. Since 2015, Robert has been the vice president of Crude Oil Supply, South.

Robert has served on the boards for Louisiana Mid Continent Oil & Gas Association (LMOGA); Louisiana Chemical Industrial Association (LCIA);  Louisiana Association of Manufacturers PAC (LAMP); Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI and all of its cardinal direction PACs); Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA); North Louisiana District Export Council; Iberia Bank Northwest Louisiana Advisory Board; and North Louisiana Economic Partnership.

Robert is married to Sheila Allen Mills. They are parents to four children.

Robert serves on the Board of Trustees and on the Global Leadership Team for First United Methodist Church in Shreveport.

1. Why do you want to be a State Senator for the 36th Senatorial District?

I want to represent Senate District 36 as their new Senator for all the right reasons.  I am a true conservative businessman with the same conservative values that are inherent in the vast majority of residents in Senate 36. I will work with the majority Republican Party to lower taxes where possible and better control spending in every department of the state government.

2. Tell me what your priorities will be for our area if elected? 

No. 1: Fiscal Reform and getting our budget and spending under control, 2: Fixing our education system, ensuring our teachers and schools have the funding they need so our children graduate and are prepared for the workforce, 3: Fixing our legal climate, which is driving jobs out of our state

3.  There are several issues that are important to Bossier residents. Transportation, education, economic development, infrastructure. How will you go about ensuring that these are addressed?

To fund the numerous issues it’s all a matter of focusing on our priorities. If we adequately fund our schools, improve our roads and bridges and create a friendly business climate, we’ll generate the revenues we need as a state without having to over-tax our residents. If we set priorities, focus on achieving results and manage our money better in the process, we can’t fail. I’ve been working at this my whole life. It’s not that complicated, but it’s going to take real business minded conservatives, not politicians to get it done.

4. Why should someone vote for you?

I am a hard-working businessman with 45 years of experience in the oil and gas industry. I’ve created jobs, balanced a budget and had to meet a payroll.  I am interested in helping Senate District 36 and the entire State of Louisiana get their feet back on the ground by protecting the jobs we have, fostering a better environment for creating new jobs and getting control of state spending so that we can take care of the basics that are being ignored. Like so many in this state, I’m tired of watching our children and grandchildren leave Louisiana in search of better opportunity. It starts by putting some real conservative reforms in place in Baton Rouge and I’m ready to go to work.