26 May 2005

Floor action, May 26: Amendments to HB 1


Somebody in the Legislature actually has stepped up to reform the Urban and Rural Funds in HB 1. Rep. Mike Walsworth, amending the part of the operating budget bill, argued for the restructuring of these slush funds that in the past allowed the governor to pick and choose which projects to bless with what projects and amounts of money. This caused lawmakers in a geographical area to compete with each other to get pet projects funded, and had to cooperate among themselves to maximize their chances of getting the governor’s blessings.

Walsworth simply argued that the $16 million presently available should be split equally among all districts. This would remove the power of the governor to favor certain projects over others and thus extract favors for other legislation.

Rep. Jeff Arnold summed up remarks of the proponents by saying “This is the fairest thing I’ve ever heard in this House.”

Appropriations chairman Rep. John Alario opposed it, said this amendment by court interpretation had substantive language that could not be present in appropriations bills. Also, he said the current structure where certain district got more money than others made up for financial shortcomings in certain parts of the state.

Naturally, the amendment failed 32-46. And thus goes by the boards another chance for fiscal sanity and legislative assertion.


Rep. Shirley Bowler got after the Administration for the previous governor’s contract that reimburses a New Orleans-area golf course for rounds of golf not played. Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc said there just wasn’t a lot that could be done about it, except a promise to try to renegotiate and to be careful in future contracts.


Rep. Jim Tucker presented an amendment to cut out almost all of the $12 million in boll weevil eradication money now going to fund or attempt to fund useless sugar mills. What would be left over from financing the existing useless mill being built and any eradication left would be transferred into the rural health, roads, and housing funds. This would prevent Agriculture Secretary Bob Odom from using this as his own slush fund.

Alario again defended the indefensible, saying it all ought to stay in the Department of Agriculture. Naturally, the amendment failed 34-58.

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