By Stacey Tinsley | BIZ. Magazine
The Northwest Louisiana Legislative Summit went virtual for the first time last week. Hosted by the Bossier Chamber of Commerce, along with partners, the Greater Minden Chamber of Commerce, Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and Shreveport-Bossier African-American Chamber of Commerce — the summit provided a recap of the successes and challenges of the 2020 sessions from legislators featuring State Sen. Robert Mills, Sen. Barrow Peacock, Rep. Larry Bagley, Rep. Raymond Crews, Rep. Dodie Horton, Rep. Danny McCormick, Rep. Wayne McMahen, Rep.Tammy Phelps, and Rep. Thomas Pressly, moderated by the Bossier Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Lisa Johnson.
Legislators answered questions submitted by citizens that are of great importance to Louisiana and it’s citizens. Such as questions regarding unemployment, infrastructure, job opportunities, sports betting and what we have learned from the pandemic that we can take moving forward for the future.
Q: Are you concerned about the number of citizens, approximately 250,000, that are still on the unemployment rolls and what can the legislators?
Rep. McCormick: The senate needs to get their heads together and see what we can do about moving ahead and reopening the economy. There’s lots of legislation that’s being proposed out there. I think we need to air on the side of more liberty and less control over our businesses. Personally I trust our business owners. I trust our citizens to run their lives. I think from this point forward we need to trust our people and we need to come together in this special session and decide what we need to do to do that.
Q: NLCOG along with DOTD and federal highways has put out an aggressive timeline to finally complete the EIS draft for the I-49 intercity connector. This is an enormous economic impact for Northwest Louisiana and will be bringing great opportunity to our region. Can you all please commit to continue supporting this project and emphasize its importance to our region?
Sen. Peacock: Our community needs to voice that. Especially to our colleges. When they visit us when you’re in Baton Rouge tell them how important the I-49 inner city connector is and how it benefits not only the Shreveport/Bossier. But the entire state of Louisiana. They need to hear that from our community that we want it. That we’re working with our congressional delegation and we need to let NLCOG and the representatives on that realize and know that we support that. I know our citizens of Bossier/Shreveport support it. We need to do this. It’s important to us. It’s economic development. It brings commerce to the heart of our community. Let’s not let us get divided. there’s some who would say let’s put one against the other. We can do this. I am fully committed to completing and building a new Jimmy Davis Bridge here in south bossier. There is money there. And I believe secretary Wilson wants to do the Jimmy Davis Bridge too. So let’s not let us be divided by a few and stay united and let’s do this for the benefit of NorthWest Louisiana and the entire state of Louisiana.
Q: Getting people back to work?
Sen. Mills: One of the things all of us in our NorthWest Louisiana delegation. All of us were pretty successful this year with getting funding for the program reboot your career providing workforce training with our community colleges.10 million dollars was set aside for that. We got such a fantastic community college. That’s just one more feather in the cap of this group of legislators that work together and got that done. It’s for everybody’s benefit for those who are having to refigure a career. We’re doing what we can. We’re not doing all we want. But will go back down here and keep trying for that.
Q: We’re going to assume that sports betting is going to pass at the local level here in November. Are y’all committed to fast tracking some legislation to get that legal sports up and running in the state of Louisiana?
Rep. Horton: I have not seen the citizens of Bossier vote down an opportunity to support our gaming industry. I feel very confident with all the calls that I have received that it will pass. It’s my understanding that a group of horsemen who really know and understand the industry have purchased it. So I will do all that I can to help them legislatively and I know my colleges will join me because we need it to thrive. It is an industry. We have over 6,000 people in District 9. Probably more now that work within the gaming industry. So I will always vote to protect their jobs.
Q: What do you think that we have learned from the Covid pandemic that we can take forward for the future?
Rep. Pressly: I think Louisiana is on the forefront of having the opportunity to bring some of those jobs back to the United states. And hopefully back to our community here in Northwest Louisiana. China in my eyes is dangerous. We need to be able to be independent and be able to bring back those jobs and those supplies that are vital to the long term health of our country back right here in America. I believe that the facilities that we have with our transportation sector with our Air Force base and military jobs that we have here in Northwest Louisiana with the healthcare industry that we have. Those are the types of jobs and the types of training that we need to look at for those that are out of work and bring those jobs right here to Northwest Louisiana. We have the opportunity to do that. We’ve learned that the Louisiana people are resilient. And that’s the biggest takeaway. We have the opportunity to really make a difference. Hopefully in this special session over the next three years we the elected officials from this area can put forth legislation and opportunities to allow the private sector to thrive right here in Louisiana.
Top sponsors for the event include CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier Health System and Kilpatrick’s Rose-Neath.