Reapportionment, health care, education on legislative agenda

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 3, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; A new reapportionment plan, rural health care, economic development, education and the budget are the main issues Sen. Noble Ellington and Rep. Bryant Hammett are looking at during the Louisiana Legislative session that wraps up its first week today.

Approximately $150 million to $500 million dollars worth of cuts have to be found, and the two areas that are not constitutionally protected are higher education and healthcare, Hammett said.

&uot;The budget is going to be difficult,&uot; Hammett said.

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Rural healthcare is usually one area that is first to get cut in the budget because, Ellington said, &uot;our money is constitutionally dedicated and we have to put money in certain places.&uot;

&uot;Healthcare is a very important issue to me because my district is very poor in that area,&uot; Hammett said.

Rural healthcare and economic development are two of his main concerns because

&uot;these are two areas in Louisiana that need all the attention they can get,&uot; Ellington said.

Trying to bring in new industries to the Miss-Lou through tax cuts is one of Ellington’s priorities, he said.

A new reapportionment plan is also on the legislatives agenda.

Hammett said the Legislature is about to start discussing a new reapportionment plan that was agreed upon by the U.S. Supreme Court, but still must be voted on and passed by legislation.

Every 10 years, legislators are required to reapportion their legislative districts based on the latest census data. Hammett said a reapportionment plan was passed during the last session but has since been challenged a number of times.

If the new reapportionment plan is passed, Hammett will represent all of Concordia Parish, including Wildsville. Hammett said his district in Tensas will be the same and his district in Madison will change by one precinct to offset the Wildsville addition.

Some other issues of importance in rural Louisiana the Legislature will be discussing are an asbestos situation and the lawsuits and bankruptcies surrounding that, Ellington said.

Another issue is getting the proper cable connections for Internet access.