12 June 2007

Floor action, Jun. 12: HB 347, HB 722

HB 347 would double, or more, reimbursement for poll workers. Author Rep. Rick Gallot said it had been many years since these workers had gotten a raise and this could solve the problem of a shortage of them. Nobody has anything to say about it and it passed unanimously among those who were present.

HB 722 would direct taxes gathered from transportation items to be spent on building roads and other transportation needs. Author Rep. Roy Quezaire said it would be a start to solve transportation infrastructure needs, giving most of these funds to roads construction, starting Jul. 1, 2008.

Rep. Joel Robideaux offered amendments that tracked his bill, which would allow parishes to decide how money got spent on which priority projects rather than the state. Rep. Don Cazayoux wanted to know how this was fair to rural parishes, since they would get much less. Robideaux said urban needs simply were greater. Cazayoux wanted to know why not just keep the priority program as it was instead of going around it, and just change the program. Robideaux said the program would remain the same, but give local governments more say in the matter. Cazayoux saw no real difference.

Rep. Hollis Downs did. He said this could be a chance for rural parishes to get projects they really wanted funded which, as far as the priorities was high, but from a statewide level did not seem as important as perhaps others in the parish. Robideaux reminded that projects under this regime could be then taken office the priority program. But Rep. William Daniel IV said a holistic perspective was necessary to connect roads together instead of segmenting them parish-by-parish. Robideaux said at least some roads would be built and no doubt the state would try to coordinate procedures anyway through the priority program. Daniel thought this was too much fragmentation to work, but Rep. Dale Erdey thought the state would work to coordinate things.

Rep. Troy Hebert noted the money, because of a sunset provision in the bill, still was subject to appropriation in essence. Again, to him therefore it didn’t seem that different from the current process. Robideaux said because funds would be put in the Transportation Trust Fund, that would put greater restrictions on the money which currently wasn’t the case, that would steer it to roads building rather than pay for operating expenses.

Quezaire argued that this amendment essentially would allow parishes to rewrite the priority list, because it removes state involvement entirely for that money. He said his bill as it stood was the consensus and should not be changed and would detract from the state’s ability to work on the $14 billion backlog of roads. Cazayoux said it would be a drastic change which would shortchange rural parishes and build roads in an uncoordinated fashion.

A motion was made to call the question on the amendment only, as a substitute for one on the entire question. That succeeded, so Robideaux emphasized that local governments should know better what priorities inn their parishes are, and that rural parishes will be better off under his amendment. It failed 40-61.

Rep. Pete Schneider then offered a lite version where only half of the money involved as asked for by Robideaux would go to the parishes, but what would go to the parishes still would be decided by the state even if allocated to specific parish needs. Quezaire, however, objected to the portion of the amendment that said disputes about use of the parish money, if no metropolitan planning organization existed, the governing authority and district engineer would decide, because this conflicted with the statute’s demand he saw as letting the state decide. Eventually, Schneider withdrew and resubmitted in order to clarify that money would not go to parish roads, but to parish roads on the priority list.

A motion again was made to call the entire question, substituted without objection to call Schneider’s amendments. Closing, Schneider emphasized this would be additional monies. His resubmission allowed their division. The amendments specifying the allocation failed 40-58, causing the last amendment to send to monies to the parish fund to be moot and got withdrawn.

Then Rep. Eddie Lambert offered an amendment to force 30 percent of the 86 percent of the money into highways, putting more money into the existing system emphasizing the capacity projects. Quezaire didn’t object, and thus it passed without objection.

Then Hebert offered an amendment to dedicate 7 percent from the 86 percent to be split between the completion of I-49 north and south. But Lambert thought his amendment would take care of this need. Further, Quezaire said some monies already were going under the proposed budget to I-49 and that this move subverted the existing system, at the expense of other projects. The amendment was defeated 30-58.

Finally, the question got moved. Quezaire noted the bill would give additional money to roads, and could be revisited because of the sunset provision. The bill passed unanimously.

My former friend … no, my future friend.
Cazayoux, questioning Robideaaux – frequently, legislators preserve decorum by speaking to each other as “friend.”

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I’m squeaking.
Hebert, explaining the motivation for his amendment.

WEDNESDAY: SB 145 is scheduled to be heard by the House Administration and Criminal Justice Committee; HB 704 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and International Affairs Committee; HB 960 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Insurance Committee; HB 474 and HB 730 are scheduled to be heard by the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.

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