Legislative session recap

By Cyndi Sellers

State Representative Ryan Bourriaque re-capped the 2021 Louisiana Legislative Session for the Cameron Parish Police jury Friday, June 11. He announced that Cameron Parish has received approximately $58 million for state-funded projects since February. In the Capital Outlay budget, the parish was allocated $125,000 in immediate cash and $1,975 in Priority 5 (construction) funds for the Cameron Parish Emergency Operations Center.

The Center replaces years of previous requests for a Grand Lake Recreation Center and will be used to replace the Grand Lake Firemen’s Center with a new building housing an EOC for the OEP to use in disasters, storage for voting machines, and a large public space for providing goods and services, and community meetings. Designing the center has already been approved by the Police Jury, and the $125,000 will be used to pay for the design work.

The new Cameron Ferry received $2.5 million in Priority 2 to keep the design work going and $20 million in construction money in Priority 5. Design work is progressing, Bourriaque said, with the bid package being prepared. It should go out for bid in January 2022. He said the Cameron II should be back in operation in August, and he is trying to get approval to keep a backup ferry here for times when the Cameron II goes out of service.

Cameron Waterworks District #1 will receive $25,000 up front and $475,000 in Priority 5 for water tower repairs and improvements to the system. These Capital Outlay items are subject to review by the governor, who has not made his final cuts.

Community Development Block Grant-MIT will provide $25 million for the Mermentau River Flood Reduction Project, which will move flood water past Hwy. 82 in Grand Chenier to the Gulf of Mexico.

Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds totaling $5.6 million have been allocated for projects yet to be determined.

The Southwest Coastal Program has allocated $3 million for the three-parish area, projects to be determined.

Embedded in a $700,000 Unmet Needs appropriation to the Cameron Parish School Board is $50,000 designated for casket retrieval, which can be used for additional overflights of the marshes.

Other accomplishments during the session include getting teachers an $800 raise and support personnel a $400 raise, which Bourriaque said should have been more, but it was a start.

The legislature was not able to pass new sales taxes to fund infrastructure, so instead it shifted $300 million of vehicle sales taxes from the General Fund to the Transportation Trust Fund. The money can only be used for infrastructure projects, not for salaries, retirement, etc., and the I-10 bridge is the number one priority, he said.

The legislature worked to end the Federal unemployment subsidy while taking care of unemployed workers by raising the state unemployment payment by $28 a week to $278 if the state foregoes the federal $300 per week unemployment checks.

A broad tax reform package is awaiting the Governor’s signature, and he has said he is inclined to support it if the numbers turn out to be revenue neutral. The package includes a constitutional amendment to lower the personal income tax rate for all taxpayers. At the same time, the federal income tax deduction would go away. Small businesses with less than $300,000 in capital would not pay corporate franchise taxes. The state sales tax collection process would be streamlined in order to collect more from online sales and make it easier on local businesses to remit.

Some insurance reform measures were adopted, but not the big ones people wanted. A new law allows district courts to appoint a Special Master to expedite claims. Another provides 19 standards for regulating adjusters. Insurers would be required to consider unexpected changes in overhead when calculating depreciation, and companies cannot force the homeowner to use a specific vendor. The penalty for not paying a claim within 30 days of agreement was raised to $2500, less than the $10,000 the House wanted, but still an increase.

Bourriaque said he met with LA DOTD staff to discuss elevating Hwy. 27 north of Hackberry, which has been a request for many years.