Week 1 is in the books

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Local legislators review happenings in Baton Rouge

With the first week of the Louisiana legislature’s session in the books, local legislators are awaiting for the heavy lifting that comes later in the three-month long gathering.

“It’s been a week of getting organized and collaborating with one another to find plan that will be effective in addressing issues that will affect residents in the state,” said State Representative Henry Burns, R-Haughton.

“It’s a lot of formalities starting the session, not a lot of controversial bills. Lot of committees clear the easy bills first to make way for the bills that will be more challenging or have opposition,” said State Senator Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City.

“Everybody’s still got the warm and fuzzes. The first week was anticlimactic in that some of what the governor had to say we’d already heard before,” said State Representative Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City.

Thompson pointed out that Jindal’s want to increase workforce development, promote a healthy business environment, and improve educational standards are a reality they are all sharing.

“We’re experiencing that first hand. We’ll have our hands full this session trying to implement tightened standards in education at all levels responsibly and fairly.”

Burns said approximately 1,500 bills have been filed by House and Senate members this session.

For the local members, his bill to recreate the veterans affairs administration has already passed the house.

“Louisiana has, per capita, more military than of any state in the union. We have many issues that affect our active and retired military,” said Burns.

He also deferred two bills due to questions from other legislators, including one that allows eye organ donations in connection with consent through the office of motor vehicles.

“When you go down there, you start from point A and it’s impossible for an individual and staff to cover every base. The beauty of a collaborative body is you don’t think of one ramification in your bill, and as a group, we can always find a resolution to any issues,” Burns said.

Peacock saw the Senate Transportation Committee pass out for bill for the Sci Port license plate to increase funding for the Shreveport educational center. He said that should come before the Senate floor next week.

Thompson expects up to six of his bills to be introduced into committee next week. His bill that allows a Hunters for the Hungry license plate, which would provide funding for wild game processing that is donated to homeless shelters, will be on the House floor today.

He added that despite the popular issues of Common Core, marijuana legalization, and others, the most important aspect of this session is the focus on a balanced budget.

There are lots of issues, but the important one is the budget reforms that started last year and how they play out dealing with core functions of our government,” explained Thompson. “Some of us took a stand and went toe to toe with the administration and we didn’t have a midyear budget cut for the first time in six years. We’re adamant that we don’t spend it if we don’t have it.”

The session convenes every Monday morning and runs through Thursday, ending by 6 p.m. on June 2.

Peacock noted he enjoys being able to come home from Baton Rouge on Fridays in order to hear from his constituents and take their input back to the Senate with him.

“During the session, we’ll meet Monday through Thursday, which allows us to come home on Friday and we’re able to meet with constituents through formal appointments or just running into people at the grocery store,” said Peacock. “It’s important to hear what their concerns are and to clarify what’s going on in the legislature.”

For more information on the session and see status of representatives’ bills, visit www.legis.la.gov