Louisiana legislators preparing for last week of session

Published 12:07 am Saturday, June 1, 2013

VIDALIA With one week left in the Louisiana legislative session, local legislators are looking to secure as much funding as possible for Concordia Parish.

The majority of that funding will likely come from the capital outlay package — House Bill 2 — which includes several Concordia Parish construction projects.

Several million dollars worth of projects for Vidalia are included in the capital outlay bill, including $10 million toward the development of a Vidalia port.

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“The development of the port is a top priority,” said District 21 Rep. Andy Anders, D-Vidalia.

Projects in the bill are rated from priority 1, which are first in line for funding, to priority 5, which will be funded last. Of the $10 million requested for the port, $2 million is priority 1 and $8 million is priority 5.

The bill also outlines approximately $1.4 million in funds for the Ferriday downtown revitalization project. The $1.4 million is payable from general obligation bonds as priority 1.

Many projects in the bill, such as Ferriday’s downtown revitalization, are continuing projects that may have been previously approved for funding, but later are vetoed or have not yet received funding.

After a final signature from Gov. Bobby Jindal, HB 2 will head to the state bond commission where members begin approving high-priority funding.

Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, and Anders — who both represent the local area — said the budget is their primary focus in the last week of the regular session, which ends Thursday, but said several other bills will impact Concordia Parish.

Anders is the primary sponsor on a bill to determine taxes on trees, timber and pulp. He said taxes on timber could change as a result of the legislation.

Anders said he also played a vital role in a discussion to exempt certain farms from sales tax.

“Some doctors and lawyers buy farms then use them for leisure, like hunting,” he said. “I advocated that only if you manufacture something on that land can you be exempt from the tax.”

Riser said he was particularly proud of an amendment he added to House Bill 629. The amendment allocates $5 million toward a Louisiana State Police academy.

“The state police academy usually gets cut,” he said. “We haven’t had an academy in about five years. It’s important to be able to keep up our police force.”

Anders said he supports the re-introduction of a police academy.

“Tensas Parish doesn’t even have any resident troopers,” Anders said. “I think it’s incredibly important to start the police academy back up.”

Anders also met, during this session, with a Chinese agricultural company interested in moving to north Louisiana or Vidalia.

The company is focused on dairy products, Anders said.

Anders is also scheduled to leave after the session ends on Thursday, with Sen. Francis Thompson D-Delhi, to go to an agricultural seminar in Canada.

“Our goal is to bring back ideas about how others do things,” Anders said.