17 November 2005

Floor action, Nov. 17: SB 95

SB 95 hit the Senate floor Thursday, the passage of which would go a long ways to bringing rationality to the fragmented levee system in Louisiana. So many districts exist because, like local government across America, grew up in a fragmented fashion as needs arose. Over time, the existing system ossified even as changing times argued for greater efficiency by consolidation. Sen. Walter Boasso’s bill hoped to accomplish this by taking a number of southern levee boards and combining them (while retaining the districts).

Boasso gave an emotional speech, addressing several senators by name, by recounting personal anecdotes about the flooding in St. Bernard Parish, argued how consolidation of levee boards could be the only solution to improving flood protection. “Flood waters don’t discriminate.” He personally thanked Sen. Nick Gautreaux for his efforts in disaster relief. He stressed that levee boards had to maintain flood protection structures, and their responsibility only could be improved by consolidation.

Sen. Francis Heitmeier blamed, in the face of facts, the Army Corps of Engineers for levee failures and tried to exonerate levee boards for their responsibility (despite documented records of the shoddy maintenance and misplaced priorities in spending by these boards). Sen. Julie Quinn called him out on that.

The original bill had gotten amended out Orleans Parish to be included and New Orleans as a domicile for the new agency. Heitmeier offered up an amendment to rectify this, although it did not transfer all of the functions of the Orleans Levee District’s board, just flood control. Sen. Max Malone called Heitmeier on that, inquiring why the Orleans Levee District had an airport, marinas, and $47 million budget. Malone pointed out this was a huge amount of money which he wondered why much of it wasn’t being spent on levees. Nonetheless, the amendment passed without objection.

Quinn also waded into the argument about minimum qualifications, arguing for high standards for board members when others had said it would be difficult to recruit such people. She said a number of people who met this criteria had wanted to serve on these boards but had been rebuffed. Heitmeier said this would restrict board membership to “high-falutin’” people, with which Quinn disputed. Sen. Ken Hollis thought with so many boards out there Quinn’s requirements were too strict, that they needed good “businesspeople.”

In the end, the amendment failed 15-23, but the bill passed 37-0.

I happened to check the Republican Caucus listing on the Legislature’s website yesterday and noticed a new name: William Daniel. I figured to mention it in this weekend wrapup, but the press beat me to it by confirming today that he had switched parties. Maybe working for former legislator Democrat Kip Holden’s administration in Baton Rouge pushed him over the edge. This was not entirely a surprise, given his voting score in the regular session that more mirrored Republicans rather than Democrats.

“I’d like to have Louis Farrakhan and Jesse Jackson locked in a room for 5 minutes. They claimed [the hurricane response] was racial in nature…. One hundred white … agents, we turned them loose to start saving [African American] lives …. The color of their skin didn’t matter.”
Boasso, in his speech in support of his SB 95.

“Bill Gates called me and wanted to be on the board and he wasn’t qualified.”
Sen. Pres. Don Hines, about the bachelor’s degree requirement initially in SB 95.

Total House introductions: 168; total Senate introductions: 112.

Total House good bills: 6; total Senate good bills: 6.

Total House bad bills: 12; total Senate bad bills: 5.

Total House good bills heard in committee: 4; total Senate good bills heard in committee: 3.

Total House bad bills heard in committee: 8; total Senate bad bills heard in committee: 3

Total House good bills passing committee: 4; total Senate good bills passing committee: 2.

Total House bad bills passing committee: 4; total Senate bad bills passing committee: 1

Total House good bills passing House: 4; total Senate good bills passing Senate: 2

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