Today continues a 4-part series examining the view of local legislators on the upcoming session.
Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, said he expects this upcoming state legislative session to have a hard review of budget numbers.
“I believe government has to be responsible and fund the things that are the primary responsibilities of government and if we have money left over, we’re taxing people too much,” he said.
He also expects higher education and health care to fall under the knife once again.
“With our budget, we have to make cuts and I expect those to come from higher education and health care again. We have to live within our means,” said Thompson.
The looming battle over the state budget could cause friction between legislators much as it did last year.
“There are a lot of us who work closely with the governor when we agree, and when we disagree we take a stand,” said Thompson. “Last year we changed some of the budget and for the first time in six years ended up with no midyear budget cuts. You can’t have viable higher education and health care with those types of practices (midyear cuts).”
Thompson argues the main responsibilities of the government — roads, education, health care, justice system — is not seeing money spent there, with majority of spending falling outside those categories.
“We’ve got to get back to a budget where we’re accountable to every tax payer.”
Personal bills Thompson will be bringing to Baton Rouge include one that deals with the fallout from the haphazard storage of combustible materials at the Explo plant in Minden.
HB337 will empower state police with greater authority to inspect and oversee areas where there are hazardous and explosive materials.
“They were limited in their authority to go out and inspect these sites so I worked with the state police so we have legislation that anywhere there’s this type of activity they have unfettered access to make sure there’s not another Explo situation like there was in Minden.
Another bill will address oil and gas companies being allowed to use an unlimited amount of water for free from state bodies of water.
“It’s cheap, but the state is giving it away. My bill stops that use from Bistineau and Cypress Black Bayou and anywhere there’s salvinia. It would require those funds be collected and devoted towards eliminating salvinia and alligator grass, because every dollar counts.
HB20 would address a conflict between existing laws that allow conceal carry in restaurants but another that says conceal carry can be prosecuted for taking a gun in an establishment that sells alcohol.
“I understand not being allowed to conceal carry in a bar. But you shouldn’t be stopped from having your weapon in a restaurant that sells alcohol. It clarifies that existing conflict,” said Thompson.
Another bill address school crossing guards’ concern about drivers using cell phones in school crossing zones.
“I was asked by a Bossier City police officer who works in school crossing areas to bring a bill that you can’t use a cellphone in a school crossing area when children are present. He works those zones and saw the need in those areas,” he added.