St. Martin legislators Rep. Fred Mills and Sen. Troy Hebert agreed that the 2008 legislative sessions were productive for the state and St. Martin Parish.
The nearly three-month-long session ended Monday, June 23 with most prominent issues, such as budgetary measures, squared away.
“We had six tax reductions that we brought back to industries,” Mills said. “We redesigned the workforce training program. We put an extra half billion dollars in roads. We put more money in retirement plans.
“Everything that we set out to do was done in these three sessions,” Mills said of the 2008 legislative season.
Mills and Hebert chimed in to describe some big ticket items that will benefit St. Martin Parish and the entire state.
Mills said the revision of the Stelly Plan was one of the more pivotal measures passed in the 2008 session. The measure creates $350 billion worth of tax cuts that will be felt directly by tax payers throughout the state.
“It’s the largest tax cut ever in the history of Louisiana,” Mills said. “For hard working taxpayers, it can mean as much as up to $1,000 per taxpayer per year in tax savings.”
A successful bill that has a strong effects locally is HB 266 that Mills and Hebert worked on together. The bill signed into law requires restaurateurs to disclose whether the crawfish or shrimp served at their facility was harvested domestically or overseas.
“Ask before you eat,” Mills said is the motto behind HB 266. “I did a lot of research that showed that foreign seafood is overloaded with antibiotics. If they (restaurants) don’t have domestic seafood, I would ask to eat something else.”
He said he worked with the Pellerin family of Breaux Bridge and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) to create a measure that revises delivery of funeral services.
“People were buying funeral home policies and there was a lot of fraud taking place,” Mills said. “There was a lot of switch and bait in that industry. That was a bill that took a lot of work and a lot of negotiating with the insurance industry.”
Mills mentioned some other important pieces of legislation that he authored would revamp the delivery of mental health services.
The cap that is in place on severance taxes on oil and gas within the parish is currently $850,000. Hebert said with legislation that went through the Capitol, the cap will be supplemented with an extra $2 million annually.
“The majority of that money will go to fixing roads in St. Martin Parish,” Hebert said.
He added that HB 420 will allocate an extra $10 million to the Atchafalaya Basin program, 85 percent of which will be devoted to the water quality improvement.
“We all know the positive effect that will have on local fishermen. That will provide to the economy of St. Martin Parish.”
Hebert touted the workforce development program as a big win for industry development in the state. The measures passed will update the delivery of training to Louisiana workers.
“We can have all the companies in the world that want to come to our area,” Hebert said. “Unless we have a trained workforce, it’s not going to happen.”
Hebert and Mills showed strong cooperative leadership in the legislature co-authoring several bills and working together to pass each other’s legislation in their respective chambers. In fact, every bill that the dynamic duo pushed for was passed.
“We batted 1.000,” Hebert quipped. “Rep. Mills and myself worked very well in our respective chambers and were able to support each other. It’s always very successful when we can have a representative and a senator work together.”
Hebert said Parish President Guy Cormier and Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle, along with Mills and himself were the driving force behind HB 420.
“It’s that type of cooperation that we were able to be very successful on a measure that means another $2 million to the parish.”
He said the public not only demands that type of cooperation from its solons, but it deserves it.