Celebrating Independence Day
This 4th of July, I am excited to be visiting Moreauville, Bunkie and Sieper's Independence Day celebrations. My travels this week have already included wonderful events in Monroe, Dubach, Lake Charles, Grand Lake and Baton Rouge.
The 4th of July is an important opportunity to reflect on the many blessings we have as Americans, and the holiday also gives us a chance to spend treasured time with our family, friends and neighbors. During our nation's birthday, we should take time to give thanks for the fact that we live in the greatest nation in the world. I hope you enjoy your 4th of July this year and take a chance to discuss with your friends and neighbors how important it is to bring our state a fresh start this Election Day. With your help, I know we can move Louisiana to the top of all those national "good" lists where we below.
Legislative Session's "Missed Opportunities"
A Sunday editorial in the Lake Charles American Press summarized the recent legislative session as one that was "marred" by "missed opportunities." They are right. There were some needed accomplishments - such as teacher pay raises and crucial funding for increased law enforcement - but so many opportunities for reform and economic growth were simply passed up.
The American Press said, "Most alarming was that Blanco and lawmakers' spending spree of a healthy $2.8 billion surplus lacked fiscal responsibility. Lawmakers failed to do what financial planners advise clients to do with a windfall..." They concluded by adding that "In three months, Louisiana voters will have their own opportunity to demand that Louisiana stay the course or sail in a new direction on the winds of reform."
Similarly, the News Star pointed out that we cannot wait any longer for serious ethics reform in our state. Their Sunday editorial said that, "Lawmakers buzzed through some $30 billion"..."more money than ever due to a one-time influx of funds related to the 2005 storms. What they gained is difficult to discern, especially because of the madcap activity exercised by lawmakers in the Legislature's last days."
The News Star went on to say that, "absent an elevation in state ethics laws and practices, potential out-of-state investors for our state's economy may remain wary about investing money here. Too little is known about how lawmakers are spending our money, and this session did not improve that situation. We expect the days and weeks to come to unveil some unholy spending and ill-advised allocations by the Legislature. The wake of every session seems to unveil examples of that."
There is no doubt that the most pressing issue facing our state which demands immediate attention and reform is our ethics system. We cannot allow the impression that, in Louisiana, who you know is more important that what you know stand for a moment longer. Our public officials are elected to serve us, not themselves. We need an ethics system overhaul so serious that Louisiana becomes a model for every other state in the country. The time for a fresh start is now.
The News Star concluded that, "There's simply too much public cash bouncing around Baton Rouge to allow the old-time pols to stay in charge, free to abuse the public's trust. It's time to look ahead toward better days and better ways."
Jindal Amendment to Fight Gulf Coast Dead Zones Passes
The House of Representatives last week unanimously passed an amendment I offered that will help fight a problem that has become a serious threat to commercial fishing, shrimping and recreation industries off our coast - the hypoxic zone, or Dead Zone, in the Gulf of Mexico. This Dead Zone forms each summer in the Gulf of Mexico when pollutants are released into the Mississippi River and flow down to the Gulf, with large amounts of algae accumulating along the way. The growth and decomposing algae then proceed to consume the water's oxygen, making it uninhabitable for fish, shrimp, and other marine wildlife.
My amendment doubles the existing funding and directs an additional $2.5 million to the Environmental Protection Agency's "Gulf of Mexico Program," which provides grants to states, universities, and private entities to develop techniques and science needed to restore and protect the Gulf of Mexico. I am pleased that my colleagues realize that approximately 40 percent of the U.S. commercial fish yield comes from the Gulf of Mexico and the livelihoods of thousands of people and their communities are at risk, as is the large marine ecosystem on which they depend.
I have also included an editorial by the Times Picayune expressing the seriousness of this issue to Louisiana.