Open House Logo

Louisiana House of Representatives


Rep. Barrow honored by national, regional groups

Rep. Regina Barrow

BATON ROUGE – The National Black Caucus of State Legislators presented to Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, its Regional Legislator of the Year Award and another group recognized her efforts to improve mental health.

Barrow, who will be sworn in as a state senator Jan. 11, was honored at the NBCSL’s 39th annual conference held Dec. 4 in Los Angeles.

A week later, at the Mental Health America: Southern Regional Policy Conference in Nashville, Barrow received a Certificate of Excellence for her work championing those with mental health and substance abuse problems.

The NBCSL’s Region 10 includes legislators from Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arizona. Sen.-elect Barrow was nominated for this award by the regional director and then the Executive Board voted via ballots.

Barrow said she was proud to receive both awards recognizing her “leadership and willingness to move policy changes forward in the Louisiana Legislature.”

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Meet the freshman class of the 2016-20 House of Representatives

It was evident prior to this year’s elections that at least 16 new members would be elected to the House of Representatives because 14 were term-limited, one had died in office and one had resigned early to take another position.

But on Jan. 11, there will be 29 new members seated when the House convenes for the first time.

The total number of new lawmakers climbed because one member was elected governor, one member did not seek re-election, five chose to run for the Senate instead of seeking re-election to the House, and six lost their seats to newcomers.

Rep-elect Jenkins, Glover, Bagley

District 2: Sam Jenkins (Left)

City Councilman Sam Jenkins, D-Shreveport, is the new representative-elect for District 2, taking the seat held by Rep. Roy Burrell, who could not run for re-election because of term limits.

Jenkins previously served as chairman of the City Council and mayor pro tempore, and served a 2006-10 term on the Caddo Commission, the parish governing body.

He must resign his local office position before assuming the state office.

A lawyer for the past 32 years, Jenkins is married to Cynthia Hightower Jenkins and they have two adult children.

District 4: Cedric Glover (Center)

Rep.-elect Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, is no stranger to the House, having served as a state representative from 1996 to 2006 in the same House District 4 seat he will hold in this term.

He replaces Rep. Patrick Williams, D-Shreveport, who chose not to seek re-election.

Glover stepped down from the House in 2006 to run for mayor of Shreveport. After being term-limited in that office, he easily again won in the Oct. 24 legislative primary election, defeating two challengers.

His public service began early in life when he established a Boy Scouts of America troop and served with the Volunteers of America Lighthouse Program as a program coordinator. He was elected treasurer of the Shreveport Chapter of the NAACP and president of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Civic Club. In 1990, at age 25, he became the youngest person to be elected to the Shreveport City Council and he moved up to the House six years later.

Glover is married to Veronica S. Glover.

District 7: Larry Bagley (Right)

District 7 Rep.-elect Larry Bagley, R-Logansport, is bringing to the House 44 years’ experience as a teacher, two terms as a city councilman and years of local civic and business experience.

Bagley replaces Rep. Richie Burford, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the state Senate instead of seeking re-election to the House. He is the manager and co-owner of Bagley Farms, located in Longstreet, which has oil, gas and timber as its primary revenue sources. He also is the owner and operator of Bagley Allstate Insurance of DeSoto Parish.

Besides being a former president of the DeSoto Parish Teachers Association, Bagley was the president of the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches – which could come in handy in the House’s annual Hoopla contest with the Senate.

He has seven children – three daughters and four sons – and two foster sons. He has seven grandchildren.

Horton McFarland Edwards

District 9: Dodie Horton (Left)

Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, the new House District 9 representative-elect, promised voters that she could “hit the ground running” because “I am job ready.”

After eight years of serving as legislative aide to Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, she has an insider’s view of the workings of state government and, as she says “there’s no learning curve.”

Burns chose to forgo his final term in the House and run for the Senate, but he lost in a runoff.

Horton and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and have three daughters.

District 13: Jack McFarland (Center)

Handling tight budgets with dwindling revenues is nothing new for him, says Rep.-elect Jack McFarland, R-Winnfield, because he’s seen plenty of them in his eight years on the Winn Parish Police Jury, especially since he became president.

His predecessor in House District 13, now Sen.-elect Rep. Jim Fannin, was in charge of handling budgets in the House. Fannin was term-limited and could not seek re-election.

McFarland is president of McFarland Timber. He was named Logger of the Year in 2008 and his company has operations in Winn, Jackson and Bienville, the three parishes in District 13.

He and his wife, the former Shelly Robinson, have a daughter and a son.

District: 29: Ronnie Edwards (Right)

Rep.-elect Ronnie Edwards, D-Baton Rouge, is another new state lawmaker who brings local government experience to the Capitol.

In the middle of her second term on the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council, she won a runoff election to fill the District 29 House seat vacated by Rep. Regina Barrow, who was term-limited but won a race for the Senate.

Edwards is a special projects manager at Urban Restoration Enhancement Corp. of Baton Rouge.

She and her husband have been married 43 years and have two children and three grandchildren.

Dwight Abraham Emmerson

District 35: Stephen Dwight (Left)

As the incoming representative for House District 35 in Calcasieu Parish, Stephen Dwight is the only member of the freshman class who did not have to compete in an election. No one challenged his candidacy.

Rep.-elect Dwight, R-Lake Charles, is city attorney and prosecutor in Westlake and he is general counsel for the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office.

He succeeds Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, who was term-limited and could not seek re-election.

Dwight and his wife of 11 years, the former Jessica Brown, have three children.

District 36: Mark Abraham (Center)

Rep.-elect Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, brings a wide range of experiences to the House, taking the District 36 seat held by Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley, who was prohibited from seeking re-election because of term limits.

Abraham played football at LSU, where he earned an accounting degree, and is currently a real estate broker.He is also the co-owner of several other businesses, including a Cajun food company, a storage firm, a furniture and appliance rental company, and a shrimp and seafood processing plant.

He is a former member of the Lake Charles City Council, the Lake Charles Port Authority, and the Louisiana International Trade Commission.

Abraham currently serves on the Board of Regents for state universities but he will have to surrender that appointed position before he takes office in the House.

With his wife, Gina, the Abrahams have three children, two sons and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

District 39: Julie Emerson (Right)

As the founder of a communications and public relations firm, Rep.-elect Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, had little problem communicating with voters in House District 39.

She pulled off one of six surprises of the election by narrowly defeating incumbent Rep. Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro, in the Oct. 24 primary by 210 votes. At 27, she is the youngest House member.

Emerson is active in the Republican Party, representing Louisiana at the 2012 Republican National Convention and serving on the Republican State Central Committee. She also is active in church-based activities, as a member of the First Baptist Church in Lafayette, and is the youngest member of the Board of Trustees of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Carolina.

Miller DeVillier Coussan

District 40: Dustin Miller (Left)

Dustin Miller, D-Lawtell, is the new representative-elect from District 40, replacing Rep. Ledricka Thierry, who lost her bid to be elected to the Senate.

Miller is an ICU nurse at Opelousas General Hospital and an RN supervisor at Mercy Regional in Ville Platte.

He’s married to his high school sweetheart, Nicole Gordon Miller, who also is a nurse. They have one daughter and they are expecting a son by the end of the year.

District 41: Phillip DeVillier (Center)

Like many other new House members, Rep.-elect Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice, is new to politics and government but he’s not new to hard work.

He learned the family business of house moving from the ground up, starting as an apprentice and working his way up to management. In 2003, after earning a bachelor’s degree from the LSU School of Business, he established DeVillier House Movers and Levelers.

He defeated two other candidates in the Oct. 24 primary to claim the District 41 seat that was vacated due to Rep. Mickey Guillory, D-Eunice, being term-limited.

DeVillier and his wife, Lisa, have three young children, two girls and a boy.

District 45: Jean-Paul Coussan (Right)

Jean-Paul Coussan, R-Lafayette, says he hopes his term in the Legislature lasts longer than the term of his namesake, Pope John Paul I, who died 33 days after being elected pope.

Rep.-elect Coussan won a close runoff election to fill a District 45 seat formerly held by Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette. Robideaux could not seek re-election because of term limits, but was elected Lafayette city-parish president.

Coussan is a partner in the Lafayette real estate law firm Andrus Boudreaux Complete Title, having earned undergraduate and law degrees at LSU. He co-founded Cougar Construction LLC, a real estate investment company focusing on residential and rental unit construction.

He and his wife of eight years, Jennifer Joy, have three children, a boy and two girls.

Amadee Zeringue MaGee

District 51: Beryl Adams-Amedee (Left)

Rep.-elect Beryl Adams-Amedee first got into politics in 2012 when she was elected to the Terrebonne Parish Council and during that term was selected to chair the council.

She used that experience to upset incumbent Rep. Joe Harrison’s bid to retain the House District 51 seat.

Amedee, R-Houma, was ordained as a minister in 2013, having earned a ministry license from the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. She’s the associate pastor at the Spirit Filled Life Center, also known as Houma West Foursquare Church, and also holds the title of Educational Resource Council Chair of the Louisiana Family Forum.

She and her husband, John, have three sons and five grandchildren. The sixth is on its way.

District 52: Jerome “Zee” Zeringue (Center)

“Every vote counts” is a motto Rep.-elect Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, R-Houma, espouses, especially after being elected in District 52 by only six votes.

The tally showed he had 5,049 votes to his opponent’s 5,043 to claim the seat held by Rep. Gordon Dove, who was term-limited.

Zeringue is the former director of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. He left that position in January, about a year after he assumed the post when his former boss, now U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, resigned to run for Congress. Zeringue was executive director of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District for 10 years before becoming Graves’ assistant at the CPRA.

He is familiar with how the House operates from having a job in the clerk’s office while working his way through college at LSU.

Zeringue lives in Houma with his wife of 20 years, Julie Daigle Zeringue, who is a teacher at Mulberry Elementary School. They have a teenage son.

District 53: Tanner Magee (Right)

Rep.-elect Tanner Magee, R-Houma, is one of the six new House members who challenged incumbents and won. He defeated Republican Rep. Lenar Whitney, who had finished her first term representing House District 53.

Magee earned a bachelor’s degree in 2002 and a master’s in public administration from LSU in 2004. After working as a project manager at the South Central Planning and Development Commission, he returned to LSU in 2007 to earn his law degree.

He represents businesses and families and pushed for commercial fishermen to be compensated for their losses from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Magee and his wife, Kristen, are raising six-year-old triplet daughters in their downtown Houma home.

Bacala Brown Marcelle

District 59: Tony Bacala (Left)

Tony Bacala, the new state Rep.-elect in House District 59, knows criminal law from applying it during his entire professional career.

He joined the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office in 1977, steadily moving up the ranks. For the past 15 years he has served as chief criminal deputy.

Bacala, R-Gonzales, was elected to replace Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales, who was subject to term limits and could not seek re-election.

He and his wife, Lisa, have been married for 29 years and they have three children – two sons and a daughter – and three grandchildren, with another on the way.

District 60: Chad Brown (Center)

Rep.-elect Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, brings to the House a background in law and extensive experience in insurance.

Brown is a former chief of staff and deputy commissioner in the state Department of Insurance. He returned to private law practice in 2008.

He was elected to replace Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, who could not run for re-election because of term limits.

Brown and his wife, Hayley Mendoza Brown, have two sons.

District 61: C. Denise Marcelle (Right)

Like Rep-elect Ronnie Edwards of District 29, Rep.-elect C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, moved up to the House from the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council.

She was elected to fill the District 61 seat that was open due to the death of Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge.

Marcelle has a Southern University degree in criminal justice and is a notary. She is the director of community outreach for the Gordon McKernan law firm.

She is the mother of two and grandmother of 11.

Carpenter Edmonds Davis

District 63: Barbara West Carpenter (Left)

Barbara West Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge, used her years of public service as a platform for election to the House, representing District 63.

Rep.-elect Carpenter replaces Rep. Dalton Honoré, D-Baton Rouge, who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate instead of seeking re-election to the House.

Carpenter is the dean of international education at Southern University in Baton Rouge. She served on the board of the East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority for 27 years, including six years as chairman.

She’s a former teacher and started the first adult literature program in the Scotlandville area, teaching reading and basic skills. She is married to Dana Carpenter.

District 66: Rick Edmonds (Center)

District 66 Rep.-elect Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, is a long-time Baptist pastor and vice president of Louisiana Family Forum.

He was ordained in 1976 and most recently was senior pastor and president of Calvary Baptist Academy.

Edmonds upset incumbent Rep. Darrel Ourso, R-Baton Rouge, who served only eight months as representative. He had been elected in a March 28 special election to replace Rep. Hunter Greene, who was elected to a judgeship.

Edmonds married his high school sweetheart, Cindy, and they have four sons and eight grandchildren.

District 69: Paula Davis (Right)

Because the District 69 seat had been open since former Rep. Erich Ponti resigned in June, Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, got a jump on the rest of the freshman class and was sworn into office earlier this month.

With her election, Baton Rouge now has five new House members in its delegation, the most of any region of the state.

Davis has a political science degree from LSU and is a former deputy commissioner of insurance in its Office of Property and Casualty. She currently is secretary for the Baton Rouge Symphony League.

She and her husband, John Davis, have one daughter.

Carter White Lyons

District 72: Robby Carter (Left)

Rep.-elect Robby Carter, D-Greensburg, returns to a familiar territory when he is sworn into office Jan. 11, having served as the District 72 House member from 1996 to 2008.

Carter reclaimed the seat in a runoff election after the former office-holder, Rep. John Bel Edwards, stepped aside to run for governor. They officially take office the same day.

He has served as town attorney for Greensburg and Montpelier and chairman of the 21st Judicial District Indigent Defender Board. He’s also active in his church and the Cattlemen’s Association and the Louisiana Forestry Association.

Carter is married to the former Kerry Anthony and they have three children.

District 75: Malinda Brumfield White (Center)

Being active in her community built the platform that Rep.-elect Malinda Brumfield White, D-Bogalusa, used to win the election in House District 75.

She replaces Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, who could not seek re-election because of term limits.

Among her accomplishments are being founder and executive chairwoman of the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival and founding board member of the Bogalusa Gospel Festival. She also was a member of the Washington Parish Commission on Human Services, was a court-appointed Special Advocate for foster children, and a board member for the Youth Services Bureau of St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, as well as serving on board promoting natural sites, parks and the parish fair.

She and her husband, Danny, own and operate White’s Business Machines. They have two daughters and a son.

District 87: Rodney Lyons (Right)

Rep.-elect Rodney Lyons, D-Harvey, is a political newcomer who captured the House District 87 seat from an incumbent, Rep. Ebony Woodruff, D-Harvey, who had served one term in the House.

Although he has not held elected office, he says he is a “quick study.”

Lyons retired after 33 years with the Jefferson Parish Streets Department as supervisor of public works. He is also a former high school and youth league basketball coach and a past president of the Woodmere Civic Association, representing the subdivision that’s often called the largest in the state.

He and his wife, Sharon, have a son and a daughter.

Falconer Hilferty Harris

District 89: Reid Falconer (Left)

Civic, community and business relationships helped Rep.-elect Reid Falconer, R-Madisonville, win the House District 89 election.

Falconer replaces Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, who could not seek re-election because of term limits.

He is an architect, once serving as staff architect for the LSU Baton Rouge campus, and holds a real estate license. He was chairman of the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce and has served on numerous boards, including those of the Methodist Children’s Home, the District Council of the Urban Land Institute and St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity. He was a founding member and past chair of the Northshore Business Council and past president of the Covington Rotary Club.

Falconer and his wife, the former Celeste Gonzales, have a son and a daughter.

District 94: Stephanie Hilferty (Center)

As a newcomer to state or local politics, Rep.-elect Stephanie Hilferty, R-New Orleans, pulled off another of the surprises of this election cycle, upsetting incumbent Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans.

Her earliest venture into politics was being elected student body president at St. Pius X, an elementary/middle school in New Orleans. Now she is president of the Lake Vista Property Owners Association.

Hilferty is a commercial real estate agent.

She married her high school sweetheart, Michael Lillis, and they are remodeling their Lake Vista home.

District 99: Jimmie Harris (Right)

With an extensive background of serving the public while working in the background, Rep.-elect Jimmy Harris, D-New Orleans, is stepping to the front to provide direct service.

Harris was born and reared in the 9th Ward, venturing out to earn a Bachelor’s degree in psychology at Morehouse College and a law degree at Southern University. He currently works as director of special projects for U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond but he has held numerous other public service jobs, including state relations coordinator for the City of New Orleans.

Harris won the District 99 House seat, replacing Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, who ran for and won a Senate seat.

Bagneris Carter

District 100: John Bagneris (Left)

Rep.-elect John Bagneris, D-New Orleans, says working 12 years as a legislative aide to long-time former House member Louis Charbonnet III gave him an insider’s knowledge of the legislative process.

Charbonnet was a floor leader for New Orleans mayors, handling their legislation in the 1970s.

Bagneris said that experience gives him an advantage toward addressing his three top issues – crime, education and economic development.

He replaces Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, who was term-limited.

District 102: Gary Carter Jr. (Right)

Education and opportunity are the keys to breaking the bonds of poverty, says Rep.-elect Gary Carter Jr., D-New Orleans.

He says he knows because it worked for him. He was born to teenage parents and raised in the Cut Off section of Algiers, but his education at Archbishop Shaw High School prepared him for Xavier University and Tulane Law School “If the state has a silver bullet, it’s education,” he said.

Carter is a partner in the Kelly, Hart and Pitre law firm. He lives in Algiers, is married and has three children.

He replaces Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, who could not seek re-elections because of term limits.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Rep. Cromer earns MBA at LSU

Rep. Greg Cromer

Rep. Greg Cromer, R-Slidell, is preparing to hang another plaque on his wall.

On Dec. 18, he will graduate from LSU’s Flores Executive MBA Program, a concentrated course of study designed for working professionals. The 17-month program, which started in July 2014, is spread over two academic years. Participants attend eight-hour classes on alternate Fridays and Saturdays.

Cromer said the courses "make me a better legislator and a better business person.

"I was able to immediately take information from the courses and apply it to everyday business in the insurance industry," he said. "I have a better understanding of contract law and issues we"ll face in the Legislature."

Cromer, the former director of the Louisiana Health Cooperative, has chaired the House Insurance Committee the past four years.

He earned his Bachelor¹s degree in industrial management at Southeastern Louisiana University in 1981. He was employed by Lockheed Martin for more than 25 years.

LSU says the 42-hour core curriculum consists of 14 courses covering all major business fields. The curriculum includes three elective courses, which cover special topics of interest to the participants.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Fourth-graders debate bills in House chamber

4th Graders Legislators

By Mike Hasten

Communications Specialist

Don’t be surprised if Clarniesha Morris, a fourth-grader who was a state representative for a day Dec. 10, is someday elected to the House for real.

She was the star of a lengthy debate on the House floor as her fellow fourth graders at the Hammond Eastside Elementary Magnet peppered her with questions about her legislation allowing students to use electronic devices in classes. She had an instant answer for dozens of inquiries and never flinched at ones from opponents who thought it was a bad idea.

Questions ranged from what would happen if a student couldn¹t afford a device and how much they cost, to what happens if the electricity goes out or the batteries died.

Clarneisha said devices are available at a wide range of prices and students should shop for the cheapest ones. As to the power situation, "You should make sure it’s fully charged before you leave home and don¹t turn it on until you need it."

She was serious during the entire debate and answered every question as a matter of fact, never showing emotion. But a broad smile lit up her face as her classmates voted to approve her bill by two votes.

“They're learning how a bill becomes law," said Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, who arranged the event and served as speaker of the House regulating questions.

The students had a lesson on the legislative process in a committee room before moving to the House floor. They sat at House members¹ desks and raised their hands to be recognized for questions.

"This is like the real thing," Broadwater told the students after the lengthy debate. Almost every student asked a question.

Principal Stephen Labbé said the students "really, really enjoyed it. It was a great learning experience and that¹s what we want our field trips to be."

In the past, students have come to the Capitol and just toured the building but this year "they thoroughly enjoyed getting to do the things they did," he said.

And they got a tour.

Over the two-day span, 115 fourth-graders in six classes at the school got the same experience.

Broadwater told Thursday’s students that the debate was good and the topic was worthy but he found that a bill presented by a group on Wednesday had more merit.

He said he will present that bill ¬ stating that students should not have to wear uniforms to school ¬ in next year’s legislative session.

"I¹m probably going to get beat up really badly on that bill," he joked, but he promised the students he would do it.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Rep. Darrell Ourso elected President of the Executive Board for the Istrouma Area Council (IAC) Boy Scouts of America

Rep. Darrell Ourso

Rep. Ourso to lead Boy Scouts Council board

Rep. Darrell Ourso has been elected president of the Executive Board for the Istrouma Area Council (IAC) Boy Scouts of America beginning in January 2016.

The IAC serves 13 parishes in Louisiana – Ascension, East & West Baton Rouge, East & West Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Point Coupee, St. Helena, St. James. St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington – and Wilkinson County in Mississippi.

The council provides a quality Scouting program to more than 8,200 co-ed youth and works with more than 3,000 adult volunteers that support 285 Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews.

The mission of the IAC and Boys Scouts of America is to build character, citizenship and total fitness while preparing young people to make ethical and moral choices over the course of their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

Rep. Ourso has been a member of the IAC Executive Board since December 2010 and has served the IAC in several other roles prior to being elected President. He is also the Chartered Organization Representative for BSA Troop 888 and a member of the Sewell-Eagle District Eagle Scout Board of Review.

The term as president will last two years.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Firefighters name Rep. Berthelot Legislator of the Year

Rep. Johnny Berthelot

The Louisiana State Fireman’s Association has named state Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, as the 2015 Roy Robichaux Sr. Legislator of the Year.

"Rep. Berthelot has been an enthusiastic supporter of public safety and fire protection,” said LSFA President Donald Milligan. “Lives are safe today because of him."

The organization cited Berthelot’s support in the Legislature of measures that improve fire safety and codes, provide better benefits to firefighters and promote recruitment and retention.

Prior to his election to the House of Representatives in 2011, Berthelot served for 24 years as the Mayor of Gonzales He is credited with directing improvements to the fire department that included full-time staff, achieving a "Class 2" fire insurance rating and initiated a Paramedic Ambulance Service for the city.

State Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning commended the partnerships between the Legislature and fire service. "It is inspiring to have Representative Berthelot stand up and ensure that firefighters, citizens and visitors in Louisiana are provided the best safety," Browning said.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Rep. Jackson honored for improving juvenile justice, health care

Rep. Katrina Jackson

State Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, has recently been honored by juvenile justice managers and family physicians for supporting their causes in the Legislature.

In November, she received the Champion of Juvenile Justice Award from the Office of Juvenile Justice at a ceremony at the Swanson Center for Youth.

She encouraged Monroe area residents to “adopt” the 155 students currently at Swanson to show that someone cares about them. Having someone who believes in them could make a difference in their lives

Mary Livers, secretary of Office of Juvenile Justice, described Jackson as a voice for those who are unable to speak for themselves, including those in the criminal justice system.

Jackson earlier was named Legislator of the Year by the Louisiana Academy of Family Physicians. It is the first time the organization has issued the award.

Jackson said at the LAFP meeting in Monroe that she was honored to be the initial recipient of the award and “I'm equally pleased that my friend and supporter Dr. (Thair) Qayyum was elected vice president of this outstanding professional organization.”

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

The War Against Litter

Louisiana Swamp

The War Against Litter

by Nancy Johnson

Since 2003, the Legislature has passed nearly 100 legislative instruments to address littering in Louisiana, including laws to create cleanup programs such as Adopt-a-Road and Adopt-a-Beach; provide for the use of inmate labor to perform cleanups on public grounds, public roads and streets; establish anti-litter license plates to promote litter awareness; and fix a schedule of fines and costs for various litter offenses.

Beautification and cleanups are recognized as necessary to enhance the tourist, recreational and economic development of the state. But fighting litter is an unending battle, as the state's 200 active Adopt-A-Road volunteer groups would tell you.

Mostly, the fight against litter has taken the form of managing and reducing litter by periodic interstate mowing and litter removal by the Department of Transportation, educating children, organizing volunteer cleanups and establishing recycle programs and trash receptacle placements.

Litter along highways and in waterways continues to plague Louisiana and costs millions of dollars to clean up each year. Drive through restaurants have been unfairly blamed as the source for the worst littering. In fact, fast-food packaging represents only 5 percent of all litter in the United States, according to the 2009 Action Research study “Litter in America." Although only a small portion of the total litter stream, fast food packaging is one of the more visible parts.

Removing litter is a quality of life initiative, according to Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and its Louisiana affiliate, Keep Louisiana Beautiful. Both organizations provide grants established by corporate partnerships that create programs to beautify and enhance roadways, generate community involvement, plant trees and shrubs, conserve water, revitalize abandoned buildings, restore playgrounds and landscape vacant lots.

Litter is the result of individual choice to be careless in the handling of personal waste, according to KAB research. When surveyed, more than 80 percent of individuals believe that littering is wrong. Litterers, on the other hand, do not feel a sense of personal responsibility for the cleanliness of parks, walkways, beaches and other public spaces and believe that someone else will pick up after them.

Education is promoted as the best tool to achieve long term change. At the same time, litter prevention programs must include penalties to reinforce the message that littering is not acceptable. In the days before regular trash collection and sanitary landfills, the conventional method of disposal was to discard trash in a ravine or a local "dump." Due to population density and increased waste generation, modern, sanitary waste management systems became necessary to handle the waste stream. Most municipalities or parishes in Louisiana have some sort of waste collection plan in place.

Several studies have concluded that littering and illegal dumping lead to more serious crimes. In 1982, Harvard professors James Q. Wilson and George L Kelling proposed a theory that linked disorder within a community to eventual occurrences of crime. A simplified explanation of the Broken Windows Theory is that if a window is broken and left unrepaired, people conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. This theory provides that minor, seemingly insignificant, quality-of-life crimes such as littering, graffiti, broken street lights, etc., were found to be tipping points for more serious crimes to take place.

In 1969, Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo tested the broken windows theory by arranging to have a car without license plates parked with its hood up on a street in the Bronx and a comparable car parked on a street in Palo Alto, California. The car in the Bronx was attacked by vandals within ten minutes of its abandonment. The first to go was the radiator and battery. Within 24 hrs., virtually everything of value had been removed. Then windows were smashed, parts torn off and upholstery ripped. Children began to play in the car.

The car in Palo Alto sat untouched for more than a week. Then Zimbardo himself smashed the windows with a sledgehammer. Shortly after that, passers by joined in. Within a few hours, the car had been torn apart and completely destroyed. The broken window was the tipping point for the subsequent crime.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani adopted the Broken Windows Theory and implemented a community-policing strategy focused on order maintenance. He had graffiti washed nightly from subway cars, subway turnstile jumpers arrested and trash collected. As misdemeanor arrests increased, subway crimes decreased. N.Y. Police Commissioner William Bratton took the concept further and introduced his broken windows-based "quality of life initiative," which cracked down on panhandling, disorderly behavior, public drinking, street prostitution and unsolicited windshield washing or other attempts to obtain cash from helpless motorists. He took police officers out of patrol cars and put them on the streets. When Bratton resigned from his first appointment in 1996, felonies were down almost 40 percent in New York and the homicide rate had fallen dramatically.

These examples are used to support the conclusion that if you interrupt the broken window theory by removing disorder (removing litter, fixing broken street lights, removing graffiti, etc.), you interrupt a behavior. KAB research shows that litterers are reluctant to litter a clean environment, but do not care about tossing their trash in an already littered area. Once litter is on the ground, it attracts more litter, whereas a clean street discourages littering. Therefore, picking up litter makes sense.

Litter cleanup on the state's roadways cost more than $7.9 million in 2015, according to numbers provided by the state Department of Transportation and Development. This figure includes interstate mowing and litter collection, Project Clean-up program funding, Inter-Agency Transfer funds to the Department of Corrections for inmate litter pick-up, debris and litter removal, assistance to Adopt-A-Road program groups, city agreements, sheriffs' agreements and servicing litter barrels. All of these efforts combined are responsible for removing a staggering 26,533 cubic yards of waste from along the state's highways.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

House employee provides pastoral service for pro team

Pastor Charles Oatis Sr

By Mike Hasten

Communications Specialist

Saturday night, before the New Orleans Saints played the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Pastor Charles Oatis Sr. provided pastoral care and led the team in a chapel service.

The team’s prayers were answered as it knocked off the Saints 41-38.

"Don’t be mad at me," says Pastor Oatis, the House’s Human Resources Manager. "The Saints didn’t call me."

He is a House employee during the week and pastor of the New Mt. Esther Baptist Church in Morgan City when he’s not doing his day job. He commutes to the Capitol Annex in Baton Rouge for his job and to Morgan City to fulfill his calling. Pastor Oatis has provided pastoral care and chapel service for the Carolina Panthers for each game the team played in the Superdome for the past three years.

"I was recommended by a person looking for a pastor," he said. "They’ve been reaching out to me since then. All NFL teams provide chapel services for their teams when playing out-of-town games."

The services were held at the New Orleans Hilton Riverside Hotel.

NFL records show the Saints won 31-13 at home in 2012, the first year Pastor Oatis was recruited, but Carolina has won the past two out of three in the Superdome, scoring 41 points in each game.

He points out that although he directed the service in 2012, “I allowed an honorary clergy to do the teaching the first year,” so he’s actually two-for-two when he was preaching.

The vast majority of the team and the coaches attended the service and a few team members – backup quarterback Joe Webb, cornerback Teddy Williams and guard Fernando Valesco – stuck around for a photo with the pastor.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

House staffer honored for volunteering in schools

 Drew Murray

By Mike Hasten

Communications Specialist

House Health and Welfare Committee legislative analyst Drew Murray says he owes his success to the strong educational base he received from the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, so he feels compelled to give something back.

“I’m a product of public schools in Baton Rouge,” he said. “I wanted to give back to the school system that gave me so much. It feels great to give my time to s omething that I feel can make a difference in a child’s life.”

Murray is a 1994 graduate of McKinley High School in Baton Rouge.

His efforts to improve the reading skills of elementary school students placed him in the “Volunteer Spotlight” of last month’s Volunteers In Public Schools (VIPS) newsletter for “going above and beyond the call of duty.” He is an annual participant in the EveryBody Reads program in his second year of volunteering.

“They don’t refer to it as tutoring,” Murray says. "It’s a one-on-one program that provides intensive help with a student who’s a little behind in reading, but doesn’t have a learning disability."

He meets once a week with a student prior to the start of the school day at Claiborne Elementary. The student’s mother agreed to bring him early for the extra attention to reading.

Because he has to work around his real job, which is most demanding about six months of the year researching and drafting legislation for annual sessions and staffing the committee, “my commitment is a little different from the typical volunteer,” he said. “I only do it during the fall semester.”

Since the usual commitment is for 20 sessions spread out over a school year, the student Murray is working with this semester is getting a more concentrated experience.

Principal Rochelle Anderson said in the newsletter “I was amazed at Drew and Scott’s commitment to reading. This is why I must continue to have Reading Friends at Claiborne Elementary.”

“The most difficult thing I’ve encountered is keeping a six-year-old first grader focused,” he said. He recognizes that the inability to stay focused could be a large contributor to the child being behind in reading.

“They have good days and bad days,” he said. “If you can get through to kids, you count the successes. Kindergarten and first and second grades are critical years for mastering reading. If he slips back, a child is going to face challenges in school.”

Murray says he has “immense respect for the teaching profession” and he encourages others to volunteer their time in schools. “Teachers greatly appreciate any help volunteers give to schools.”

To learn more about the volunteer reading program, contact Tony Pryer at

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Rep. Leger named 'Champion for Children'

Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans

The Childcare Association of Louisiana (CCAL) has named state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, as its 2015 Champion for Children.

CCAL honored Leger at an Oct. 13 awards ceremony "for his tireless efforts in early childhood education this past legislative session.

His efforts to raise the earned income tax credit for working families in Louisiana were extraordinary."

Leger represents Orleans Parish and serves as speaker pro tempore in the House of Representatives.

CCAL representative Cindy Bishop said he also “is also a fierce advocate for early childhood education,” serving on the House Education Committee.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Reps. Moreno, Thierry and Seabaugh chosen as CCAL state representatives of the year


State Reps. Helena Moreno, Ledrika Thierry and Alan Seabaugh have been honored by the Childcare Association of Louisiana as 2015 State Representatives of the Year.

The lawmakers were recognized at an Oct. 13 awards ceremony for their work on early childhood education in the past legislative session.

CCAL presented an award to Rep. Moreno, D-New Orleans, at the organization's Fall Education Conference on Oct. 16. Rep. Thierry, D-Opelousas, received her award in Lafayette.

The group recognized Rep. Moreno for sponsoring legislation to identify funding sources for early childhood education.

Rep. Thierry, D-Opelousas, was honored for her legislation relative to implementing the assessment and accountability system for publicly funded early childhood education programs.

Rep. Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, was recognized for his legislation dealing with classification of small owner-operated day care centers.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Rep. Patrick Williams completes another 'journey'

Rep. Patrick Williams

By Mike Hasten

Communications Specialist

First, it was walking the 226 miles from Shreveport to Baton Rouge in time to begin legislative sessions to raise awareness of autism and childhood obesity.

Now, Rep. Patrick Williams, D-Shreveport, has completed what he calls “a three-year journey” that was “the most stressful thing I’ve done in my life. I had to defend my positions or change them” as a team challenged each segment of his work.

The new stress came in earning his Ph.D. from the College of Management and Technology at Walden University, an accredited, nationally recognized online degree-granting institution. A doctorate chairman and three separate review boards scrutinized his suppositions and research, and required extensive data and documentation to support his work. And then the Dean of the college had to approve it.

His 243-page dissertation, titled “Political Leadership and Management of Services in a Downturn Economy,” has just been published by Lambert Academic Publishing.

"This was the time for this," Williams said, because state and local governments nationwide are struggling to balance budgets with decreasing revenues.

As vice-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and previously as a member of the Appropriations Committee, he got an insider’s view of how funding decisions are made. As a member of the House Health and Welfare Committee, he saw some of the dire needs of the state.

He also got a first-hand look at how municipalities are struggling, which was the starting point of his study.

Although Louisiana was an ideal laboratory for his research and his many interviews and data collections are from state and local government officials, he chose to use “Magnolia” as the name of the hypothetical southern state in his dissertation.

Williams chose this topic “because of what I was experiencing in the Legislature,” he said. "We had shortfalls, so we had to make changes for this to work. I knew if the state was in this position, municipalities had to be in the same situation.” He wanted to examine "what the thought process of the leadership was; how they came to their conclusions."

In his publication, he points out that while theories for accomplishing goals are good, real life often interferes in applying those principles.

"From the theoretical perspective of rational choice theory, the decision-making process involves weighing the expected costs and benefits of various options or courses of action in order to identify the optimal way of achieving the desired goals," the dissertation says.

"Based on this theoretical perspective, it was assumed for the purpose of the study that municipal leaders would generally make rational choices, within the context of the resources available to accomplish their goals, however these were defined by the decision-maker."

But the study found that other factors, like mandated costs, unexpected happenings, court orders that direct funding, special interest groups, and the personal or political leanings of the local officials, often get in the way of applying the theories. "Elected officials don’t just make decisions in a bubble," he said.

Williams said he was determined to complete the degree program before his term ended and "after this year's session, I buckled down and got the last section completed…To know you can go through this and complete it is a thing of joy."

His driving force in completing the Ph.D. requirements was the belief "If it is to be, it is up to ME".

As to walking to Baton Rouge, "that’s not something I’ll ever do again," he chuckled.

Although term limits would allow him to run for re-election for a third term, Williams chose not to enter the fray and to instead focus on working to improve the quality of life in the City of Shreveport. He is an architect and an engineering consultant, the owner of Williams Enterprises, LLC.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Outside in Huey's Garden

Louisiana State Capitol Gardens

by Nancy Johnson

House Communications Specialist

Many people grew up believing that the most important step in planting bulbs is to bury them with their points up. Generations of mothers cautioned their children to "be sure they aren't upside down or they'll grow to China!"

Thankfully, one doesn't have to be a master gardener to admire and enjoy the elegance of the acres of beautiful, precisely planted flower beds that surround the State Capitol building, the old Army arsenal and all the structures that make up the Capitol complex.

Historically, the State Capitol property that encompasses the land adjacent to the Mississippi River from Capitol Lake south to Laurel Street was inhabited first, of course, by Native Americans, then French settlers by virtue of their ownership of English land grants. When the British military garrison fell to Spanish forces in 1779, the loss completely wiped out all English holdings for Baton Rouge and the entire Mississippi River valley.

A succession of Spanish newcomers acquired land grants from the new Spanish government. A large tract of land east of the Spanish fort went to Manuel Gayoso de Lamos, Spanish governor from 1797 to 1799, businessman Don Antonio deGras, Juan Garcia, Eulogio de Casas and a gentleman farmer by the name of Jose Cabo.

Don Antonio deGras was a visionary and land developer who designed the first market square in Baton Rouge and donated property to the Catholic Church in 1799 for the first site of St. Joseph's. He sold a parcel of his property to the government for $30,000. These grounds grew over time to become home to a U.S. Army post in 1810, the Louisiana State University campus in 1885 and the state's present capitol building, completed in 1932.

Jose Cabo was known as an expert gardener and worked the land in the vicinity of the old Spanish fort and Spanish Town. More than 236 years later, his descendent, Mathilde Myers, works as Horticulture Manager for the State of Louisiana Office of Buildings and Grounds and oversees the day to day operations for the 22 acres of formal gardens in which Cabo once tilled.

The formal gardens were designed originally to complement the new Art Deco style Capitol. Architect Leon Weiss designed the gardens, and personnel from the Jungle Gardens of Avery Island installed them.

The north lake was in existence at the time the Capitol was built and became part of the landscape plan. Along the lake's edge, plants are massed to create a natural area, which is used extensively by tourists and state employees. Sweeping geometric shapes crisscross the formal gardens in front with exactly half of the garden planted in a mirror image to its other half. The original design to the rear of the Capitol was a broad axial walkway with radiating walkways, or a crown to the geometric design of the front. The original design is easily seen on the miniature diagrams posted next to the exits on each floor of the Capitol.

Myers and her close band of master horticulturists Kathi Noble and James Tims discuss and outline the game plan to create the beautiful beds that are changed out several times a year.

Myers orders seeds and plant-plugs in vast quantities from nurseries in several northern states. After they arrive in Louisiana, Tims pots them individually, and they are nurtured in the state greenhouse along River Road until they're ready to be transplanted.

Myers, Noble and Tims are responsible for the potting and planting of more than 12,000 bedding plants each year

Tims said, "The only changes to the original plan in the front of the Capitol are the size of the beds that were modified around 20 - 25 years ago to accommodate the installation of the irrigation system, which altered the size of the beds from 5 x 16 feet to 4 x 18 feet long."

"And sometimes, certain plants such as yucca planted at one time around Huey Long's statue were added simply because they were fashionable at the time," Myers said. Later they were removed.

Otherwise, despite weathering hurricanes and drought, the gardens have remained constant without significant change.

Noble said there are 35 flower beds that make up the design, including three beds around the arsenal, as well as the rose garden.

All walkways are lined with boxwood hedges. The grounds contain irregular masses of azaleas and crepe myrtles. Magnolias, the state flower, are planted throughout as the unifying element. The main walkways running north and south are lined with several varieties of cedars.

The lower part of the garden that borders Spanish Town Road is lined with several varieties of pfitzers.

The center of the sunken garden was to be the jewel in the heart of the garden. Now the area is called Memorial Garden where Huey P. Long is buried.

The garden to the east of the building has a main walk that stops at the base of the Arsenal Museum, where a 115-foot long rose garden is planted.

Inside the Arsenal Museum is a photograph showing the old LSU football team playing on ground level with the front of the arsenal. But in 1931, huge amounts of earth were excavated over to where the Capitol was being built, which left a deep depression in front of the arsenal. Today, the arsenal has the appearance of being built on a high terrace overlooking the rose garden below.

The main walk is randomly intersected by curving walkways leading to a peninsula which projects eastward. It was at the point of this peninsula where vampire Edward Cullen and his bride Bella Swan of the Twilight Saga films were married.

There are no signs of the bad-boy kudzu or ardisia, two destructive, invasive plants that have arrived in some areas of the state. There are however, stands of carefully cultivated bamboo in the east garden behind the Arsenal Museum, which is a favorite planting because of its cool shade and creates a nice variation to the dominant numbers of evergreens and shrubs.

Throughout the gardens are fragrant sweet olives, hostas, ginger, junipers and oleanders.

In June of this year, 225 Magazine rated the Louisiana State Capitol Park as the Best of 225 for Best Place for a Picnic. (The LSU Parade Ground and the Highland Road Community Park were runners-up.) The publishers of 225 presented Myers with a plaque congratulating State Buildings and Grounds for their contribution.

At times, the peaceful State Capitol grounds are loud when people stand along its perimeters to watch Mardi Gras parades or when large crowds gather to make their voices heard during an annual legislative session. Through it all, Huey's garden is a center of celebration, relaxation and beauty. The work performed by the dedicated gardeners of the State Buildings and Grounds deserves high praise.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Politics in a (really) small town are different

Mound in Louisiana

Northeast Louisiana Indian Mounds, such as this one at Poverty Point National Monument, inspired the name of the state's smallest  municipality.

By Mike Hasten

House Communications Specialist

As Election Day nears, candidates are calling each other names, scurrying all around the state, and spending millions of dollars trying to round up enough votes to be elected.

In small towns, especially in the Village of Mound, which is Louisiana’s smallest incorporated municipality with just 18 residents, elections are more civilized.

“We have to be more civilized,” said Police Chief Mark Federick. “In a place this small, sooner or later you’re going to need something from somebody.”

“We just get together and decide who does what,” said Mayor Margaret Gilfoil Yerger, who has held office since 1989 when her predecessor, Dorothy Smith Ashley, closed the general store and smokehouse that she and her husband ran and moved to Tallulah.  When the store closed, so did the post office.

“Nobody runs against you, so you’re not on a ballot,” Yerger said, so there’s not really an election.

State Rep. Andy Anders, D-Vidalia, whose district includes Mound and a number of other small communities along the Mississippi River, says that’s not too unusual.

“In Oak Ridge, they sit around and drink coffee and decide” who will hold which office, he said.

Incorporated as a village in 1916, Mound turns 100 next year. It’s located on the eastern side of Madison Parish, almost midway between Vicksburg and the parish seat, Tallulah.

Like most municipalities in Louisiana, it was organized under the Lawrason Act, state legislation enacted in 1898 that uses population to determine status. Villages have less than 1,000 residents, towns have 1,000 to 5,000, and cities have 5,000 or more.

The act  requires the election of a mayor, at least three council members and a police chief.

Yerger, who turned 71 earlier this month, said she wouldn’t mind if someone else wanted to take over.

“Somebody else has to do this,” she said. “But nobody else wants to be mayor.”

There’s also no one standing in line to hold the three Mound Board of Aldermen seats or his position as police chief, Federick said.

He took the position about six years ago after his brother, now-Alderman Andrew Federick, “was police chief for a long time.”

Joining Andrew Federick on the Mound Board of Aldermen are Walter Crews Jr. and his wife, Margaret, who also serves as town clerk.

The mayor and the aldermen are all Republicans.  The police chief is a Democrat.

Mayor Yerger’s husband, Ed, formerly served on the board but he stepped down when his wife was elected mayor. From 1983 to 1987, his mother, Hazel Havard Yerger, was mayor.

Anders describes Mound as “unique” in that it handles all its own problems and never asks for help.

“I wish they all were that easy,” he says with a chuckle.

The secretary of state’s records show that when qualifying for the Nov. 4, 2014, municipal elections closed last year, no one had signed the paperwork to run for Mound’s four municipal offices.

Because no one challenged them, the existing office holders kept their positions.

The Yerger family has lived in Madison Parish since the early 1900s when George S. Yerger, a Mississippi native and grandfather of the mayor's husband, moved there after serving in the Spanish-American War. He purchased land and at different times was full or part owner of three plantations, Hecla, Algodon and Huon -- all in Madison parish. Mound was part of Hecla Plantation.

"My husband was one of six brothers and the family owned all this land around us," Margaret Yerger said. "The people across the street are relatives and so are the people next door."

Members of the Yerger family still own land in the parish. The mayor and her husband run the Ed and Margaret Yerger Farm.

The mayor’s family, the Gilfoils, formerly owned all or parts of Neely and Mountain plantations and still owns land along the Mississippi River north of Mound.

A Madison Parish map in 1875 showed about 100 named plantations still existing after the Civil War.  Some of their “big houses” were burned during the war but the plantations still existed.

Agriculture is king in the parish, with cotton, soybeans, corn, rice, crawfish and cattle being the major products.  In the early years, though, cotton and a little corn were the only products.

Mound’s population was 145 in the 1940 Census, but the number has dropped rapidly in each ensuing count.

Many small towns in rural areas, including Delta, which is just a few miles down the road from Mound, are experiencing the same problems.

“Back in the day,” Federick said, “we had a post office, a general store and a library, which became a doctor’s office.  As agriculture changed, it kind of dried up. For the most part, it’s family members."

Mound’s population dropped to 12 in the 2000 Census but showed a 58 percent increase to 19 in 2010. It’s now dropped to 18, by the mayor’s count – 16 adults and two children.

The police chief says the population “might swell to 23 when the college kids come home."

Dissolving the municipal government is a possibility. Since its population is less than 100, the mayor could decide to do it, said John Gallagher, director of government affairs for the Louisiana Municipal Association. But Mayor Yerger and Chief Federick say they don’t see that happening.

“There’s a sense of community and really just holding on to vestiges of the past,” Federick said.

Like in many small towns, “There’s not a whole lot to do as police chief,” he said.  “There’s not a crime spree.”

He gets calls about suspicious people around residents’ houses and stray dogs roaming loose.

“We don’t have a police car and he doesn’t write tickets,” the mayor said.

Federick says he uses his own vehicle because the village can’t afford a police car.

But if something serious occurs, he’s prepared.  He has a badge and a concealed weapon permit, and the Madison Parish Sheriff’s Office is programmed into his phone in case there’s trouble he can’t handle.

“We look out for each other,” he said. “We have an all-volunteer fire department, so you try to look out for yourself and your neighbor."

Just as it was for many small towns, being bypassed by an interstate highway was a major blow for Mound.

Interstate 20, which runs just south of the corporate limits, has a Mound exit but traffic is light on that ramp.

Although all of the public officials in Mound are unpaid and expenses are limited, audits show expenditures far exceed revenues in recent years.

A 2014 audit showed about $1,400 in expenses and $170 revenue from franchise taxes and interest earned from general fund investments.

The village is living off a surplus built up years ago when it had businesses, including an off-track betting parlor and a general store.

Online maps show the corporate limits reaching across I-20 and taking in a truck stop casino, which could be a major revenue source.

But the mayor, the parish clerk of court and the assessor say the maps are wrong because there’s been no annexation since the original 155-acre plot was incorporated.

Federick said the OTB has reopened “but it’s nothing like it used to be.”

 And so it is in the smallest town – make that village – in Louisiana.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Rep. Lorusso gets promotion

Sep 18, 2015

Rep. Nick Lorusso

Besides being state Rep. Nick Lorusso, a Republican House member from New Orleans, he is now U.S. Army Reserves Col. Nick Lorusso.

Lorusso received his commission as a full colonel in September after more than 22 years’ service in the U.S. Army and the Army Reserves.

The military puts to full use his training as an attorney. But he’s also a graduate of the U.S. Army Airborne School and the Command and General Staff College. He also holds a Masters of Strategic Studies degree from the Army War College, His first assignment on active duty was as a military prosecutor and special U.S. attorney at Fort Drum, N.Y. He later was deployed to the Republic of Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy as an international law and detention operations attorney.

Lorusso has been called to active duty three times since transferring to the Army Reserves. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he was mobilized to serve as the Chief of the Legal Assistance Division for III Corps (Rear) at Fort Hood, Texas. While there, he was deployed to Guantanamo Bay and the Pentagon to serve at the al-Qaida terrorist tribunals.

When hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf coast in 2005, Lorusso was activated by the Army to serve at Fort Polk and at Camp Shelby in Mississippi as the Command Judge Advocate of a hurricane recovery task force. That service assisted more than 3,200 soldiers and their families who lost their jobs or homes as a result of the hurricanes. Lorusso’s third activation came in late 2008, so he missed the legislative session of 2009. He took a leave of absence and, fulfilling the requirements of a constitutional amendment he authored, he submitted the names of three candidates to serve in his absence.

For a year he served as Deputy Staff Judge Advocate of I Corps (Rear) at Fort Lewis in Washington. He was second-in-charge of a 130-person legal office. Lorusso currently serves as legal advisor to Forces Command, the largest command in the U.S. Army. More than 750,000 Active Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers are under the command, located at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Rep. Harrison named to second energy panel

Sep 2015

Rep. Joe Harrison

Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Houma, has been selected to serve on the 2015–2016 Southern States Energy Board (SSEB) Executive Committee.

He is the first Louisiana legislator to serve on the executive committees of both the Southern States Energy Board and the Energy Council.

Harrison was named to the SSEB panel at a meeting of governors and fellow legislators from across the southern region to discuss energy policy and advanced technologies at the SSEB’s 55th Annual Meeting held Sept. 27–29 at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

As a member of the executive committee, Harrison will provide advice, counsel and policy direction to the board. “Rep. Harrison is an asset to the organization just as he is an asset to the people he serves in Louisiana,” said Ken Nemeth, executive director of SSEB. “His experience and understanding of energy policy provides an important advantage to the board moving forward.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson will serve as the committee’s chairman, Kentucky Rep. Rocky Adkins as vice chairman and Oklahoma Rep. Weldon Watson as the committee’s treasurer. Joining Harrison on the committee are West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Alabama Rep. Randy Davis, Arkansas Sen. Eddie Joe Williams and Tennessee Sen. Mark Norris.

SSEB is a non-profit interstate compact organization created in 1960. The board’s mission is to enhance economic development and the quality of life in the South through innovations in energy and environmental policies, programs and technologies. Sixteen southern states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia – and two territories – Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands – comprise the membership of SSEB.

SSEB also maintains an associate members program composed of non-governmental entities, such as industry partners, trade associations and public advocacy groups that provide an annual contribution to the board.

Immigration Task Force to Compile Report

Sep 03, 2015

Immigration Task Force

A new Immigration Task Force won’t try to solve the “complex issue” of illegal immigration, says Rep. Valarie Hodges, who chairs the panel.

Instead, its goals are to compile data on the costs and the impact on state services, Hodges, R-Denham Springs, told Task Force members at a Sept. 3 organizational meeting.

That data will be assembled into a report for the Legislature. “We’re not here to demonize families or individuals who seek to come to the United States,” she said.

The task force was created by Hodges’ House Resolution 175 approved in this year’s legislative session.

Illegal immigration is a national issue that causes problems for states, Hodges said. “A country with no borders is just a piece of land.

Right now, we really don’t have a border.” The panel is to determine the financial impact on the state’s education, health care and criminal justice systems – services that have to be provided to anyone residing in the state, regardless of status.

“We want to identify how pervasive the problem is. Jobs, voter fraud and the drain on our budget are just a few of the issues. Somebody needs to tackle this issue. We’re going to try,” she said.

With a $1.4 billion shortfall that had to be addressed this year and more fiscal problems expected for the next years’ budgets, the state can hardly afford the millions of dollars spent on people who are in Louisiana illegally, she said.

Representatives of the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Department of Education are to present reports on immigration’s impact at the panel’s next meeting, tentatively set for Oct. 22.

Other Immigration Task Force members are Michael Barnett of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, Lt. Tim Browning of the Louisiana Police Chiefs Association, Jason Starnes of Louisiana State Police, Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes, Chris Holton of the Center for Security Policy, Greg Waddell of the Louisiana Hospital Association, Clay Pinson of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Leila Braswell of the Louisiana District Attorney Association, and Diane Long of Eagle Forum and the Louisiana Power Coalition.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Ten Years Ago

Aug 29, 2015

New Orleans after Katrina

By Nancy Johnson, House Communications Specialist

A cruel tragedy occurred in our state’s history 10 years ago, when two catastrophic hurricanes struck within a few weeks of each other.

The storms stunned unprepared residents, paralyzed whole parishes and uprooted more than a million of the state's population. The sad and desperate search for loved ones and the shocking events inside and out of the Superdome are branded in our memories.

Soon after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, nearly all forms of telecommunication ceased to exist in most of south Louisiana and Mississippi, an area roughly equal to 95,000 square miles. Major highways were impassable, most airports were closed. Katrina caused flooding and great wind damage to the New Orleans area and to large portions of the central and eastern parishes of the state.

Category 5 Hurricane Rita caused extreme damage to homes, schools and businesses in Cameron, Vermilion and the other southwestern coastal parishes. Hundreds of thousands of people attempting to evacuate produced highway gridlock in every direction.

Nearly a third of the Legislature’s members lost their homes and their district offices in hurricane-stricken areas. The Senate President and House Speaker quickly established a Legislative Resource Center manned by House and Senate staffers as an emergency response center toassist members with their constituents’ problems. The center worked with the Office of Emergency Preparedness and countless other entities to respond to more than 700 requests for assistance.

As Clerk of the House Butch Speer said, "The memories and experiences of hurricanes Katrina and Rita will live with us forever, becoming another marker in our lives. The charge to create the Legislative Resource Center to assist the members in dealing with the two storms also created such a marker-event – the conjoining of the House and Senate staffs, cooperative and supportive working groups, shared responsibilities and authorities. We learned we aren't actually separate, merely separated staffs."

"What about the next time?" Speer asked.

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness operates an Emergency Operations Center to match the blueprint from the federal office, the National Incident Management System – NIMS.

During emergencies, the Legislature has a staff presence at GOHSEP’s EOC and there’s “a resource room – VIP room – at the Emergency Preparedness building, but separate from the EOC. This room will be staffed by the Legislature and the governor's office and is designed as an information outlet for legislators and other elected officials. Further, the two presiding officers, or their designees, will have a seat at the Joint Command Center, the situation room for emergency operations," Speer said.

"The pregnant question is: will we need a Legislative Resource Center for future mega-emergencies? To which I must answer, of course, ‘I don't know,’” he said. “The Senate president and the speaker strongly support the resource center concept, however, the resource room at OEP may replace our Capitol Resource Center. There is always a caveat: If the communication assets at the resource room will not support us handling the volume of contacts we experienced during Kat-Rita, you may rest assured the LRC will rise, phoenix like, from its deep repose.”

Gov. Kathleen Blanco called a special legislative session on Nov. 6 to address storm-related needs. The state budget was cut by more than $600 million to offset the decline in state revenue and fees brought about by the hurricanes. Among the programs cut were the Rural and Urban Development funds, healthcare and education. The House of Representatives voluntarily cut its budget by $1 million. The special session produced an assortment of hurricane-related legislation.

In February 2006, Gov. Blanco called a second special 12-day legislative session to outline her plans for spending federal hurricane recovery money. Blanco addressed lawmakers at the New Orleans Convention Center following a legislative bus tour of the devastated Ninth Ward earlier in the day.

The session continued hurricane relief efforts that were begun in the November special session. Legislation was passed (Act 5) that created the Louisiana Recovery Authority as a state agency to coordinate programs and funding for hurricane recovery. Also passed in the special session was legislation to move the authority of the Military Department to GOHSEP.

The Road Home Program (, which was developed as the state’s housing recovery program, provided homeowners affected by Hurricanes Rita or Katrina to up to $150,000 in compensation for losses to stay, buy out or relocate in Louisiana or sell their homes. In addition, the Road Home Program loaned money to restore and construct thousands of rental properties.

But the Road Home Program was slow to help. One year after the storms, only 675 homeowners had been awarded assistance. Eventually, however, eligible residents across the Louisiana coastal region received $8.9 billion to rebuild and protect their homes and rental properties, according to numbers provided by the Road Home Program website.

The nation and the world reached out to Louisiana with boundless generosity as countless churches, corporations, relief organizations and many, many others sent volunteers, water, food, clothing and supplies.

A year later, New Orleans saw the return of the Saints, a sign of recovery, and the reopening of some of its celebrated restaurants. Now, 10 years later, a new future has taken root. Many former residents moved back and many new residents came. Metro New Orleans has become one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S.

The stricken communities of southwest Louisiana overcame amazing odds to rebuild their towns and schools after Rita wiped out some small communities. FEMA provided public assistance grants for debris removal and emergency protective measures and later, grants to repair or rebuild damaged public facilities.

Survivors of Katrina described their experiences: people who swam from their homes, who remember the sound of gunshots in the darkness and watched from their rooftops with indescribable fear as floodwaters rushed through neighborhoods, engulfing homes, cars and escape routes.

It is 10 years later, and the streetcars are rolling once again. Memories have softened, and the people of Louisiana have moved forward, their spirit intact.

See a picture gallery here

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Fannin receives Public Health Champion and Legislator of the Year award

Aug 14, 2015

Rep. Jim Fannin

Rep. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, was selected Public Health Champion and Legislator of the Year by the Association for Louisiana Public Health Advocates (ALPHA). From left are: Emilie Gunn, spokesperson of ALPHA; Marie Daigre, allied health professional; Rep. Fannin; Dr. Jimmy Guidry, state health officer; and Mitch LeBas, representative for the backflow prevention industry.

State Representative Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, has received the 2015 Public Health Champion and Legislator of the Year award from the Association of Louisiana’s Public Health Advocates. The Louisiana Public Health Association is an affiliate member of the American Public Health Association, and the Public Health Champion award recognizes an organization or individual who has impacted public health through support or action during the previous year. Rep. Fannin received this award due to his support of certain legislation to aide in public health programs and issues in Louisiana. Rep. Fannin said, “It is an honor to receive the Public Health Champion and Legislator of the Year award from the Association of Public Health. I have and will continue to always keep the health of our citizens of the utmost importance, and facilitate with public health programs for our state.”

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Quaid Honored by NCSL

Aug 06, 2015

Mary Quaid, executive director of House Legislative Services

Mary Quaid, executive director of House Legislative Services, received the Legislative Staff Achievement Award at the National Conference of State Legislature Summit Aug. 3-6 in Seattle.

The co-chairs of NCSL’s Standing Committees recognized Quaid for her outstanding contributions to the Louisiana House of Representatives and her distinguished service to the standing committees and NCSL.

Quaid has headed HLS for the past 16 years. Before taking the helm of the non-partisan legislative research and drafting organization for the Louisiana House of Representatives, she staffed the Criminal Justice and Civil Law committees and later became director of the Legal Division.

“For a combined total of 27 years, Mary has enjoyed the rigors, dynamics and change inherent in any legislature, and attributes the success of HLS to its professional and highly dedicated 82-member staff with whom she is honored to work for the betterment of the House of Representatives and all of its members,” the NCSL acknowledgement says.

Quaid has participated in NCSL’s Legislative Staff Management Institute and its Senior Management Leadership Seminar. Additionally, she has made several presentations at NCSL annual Legislative Summits, Research and Committee Staff Sections, Leadership Staff Section and Legislative Information and Communications Staff (LINCS) professional development seminars.

She also has made presentations for the Legislative Effectiveness Committee (LEC), on which she serves as a staff vice-chair.

Her presentations include Providing Exemplary Member Services, Permanent Staff in a Term-Limited Legislature, and Legislators and Staff: Building Trust in a Polarized World, She is helping to spearhead an effort by the LEC to examine mentoring practices for new legislators. “Her insight and thoughtful leadership is noticed, respected and valued by the committee,” the announcement says.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Rep. Stokes Elected to Top NCSL Committee

Aug 05, 2015

Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner

Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, has been elected to the Executive Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Stokes was elected at last month’s NCSL Legislative Summit in Seattle, where state lawmakers from across the United States gathered to discuss issues facing states and the nation.

“We are pleased to have Representative Stokes’ expertise on NCSL’s Executive Committee,” said NCSL President and Utah Senate President Pro Temp Curt Bramble. “As a current and rising leader in the Louisiana Legislature, her participation in NCSL will be key in guiding the national organization’s future.”

“I am honored to be elected to the Executive Committee after serving as part of NCSL’s Task Force on State & Local Taxation for a relatively short time,” said Stokes, who was elected to the House in 2013 in a special election.

“Learning and networking with other leaders on a national level helps me to understand how Louisiana’s tax structure compares to other states and how Louisiana might structure itself to more effectively compete in a global economy,” she said.

Stokes, a certified public accountant, serves on a variety of House committees, including Ways and Means, Health and Welfare, Labor and Industrial Relations, and the Joint Legislative Committee on Capital Outlay. She is the vice chair of the Legislative Audit Advisory Council and is the author of the newly formed Sales Tax Streamlining and Modernization Commission.

The Executive Committee is the governing body of NCSL. It is comprised of 48 state lawmakers and 15 legislative staff members.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Kleckley Elected Vice Chair of SLC

Jul 27, 2015

 Speaker of the House Charles E. “Chuck” Kleckley

Delegates to the 69th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference have unanimously elected Speaker of the House Charles E. “Chuck” Kleckley vice chair of the organization.

As vice chair, Kleckley will assist the chair in executing the activities of the conference, guide its policy deliberations and serve as liaison to the House and Senate leaders of the 15 member states. SLC is the southern office of The Council of State Governments.

Senate President Robert Stivers of Kentucky and Speaker Philip Gunn of Mississippi were elected chair and chair-elect, respectively, at the July 22 conference in Savannah, Ga.

Founded in 1947, the SLC’s mission is to foster and encourage intergovernmental cooperation among its 15 member states. With membership states Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia,. the SLC is the largest coalition among the four regional offices of the CSG.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email