Capitol Briefing

By Gabe Firment, State Representative District 22

Although national politics and the upcoming 5th District congressional election have been getting most of the attention lately, the state legislature will soon meet and convene in regular session at noon on April 12th and adjourn no later than 6:00 p.m. on June 10th. Being an odd-numbered year, this regular legislative session is primarily a “fiscal” session with lawmakers limited to pre-filing five “general” bills that are unrelated to fiscal matters. I want to briefly preview what I feel should be our legislative priorities leading up to the regular session in April. I plan on exploring many of these topics more thoroughly in future articles prior to the start of the legislative session in April.

The hottest topic for the legislature heading into 2021 is redistricting, or re-drawing election lines for elected offices based on the newest census data. The process plays out primarily in the House and Senate Governmental Affairs committee and will almost certainly require a special session later in the summer due to Census Bureau delays and the complexity of the task. The House and Governmental Affairs has new leadership in chairman John Stefanski(R-Crowley), who played a huge role in crafting the important tort reform legislation passed last year and who will no doubt do a great job with redistricting.    

Budget and Tax issues will also take center stage this session and will generate lots of heated debate and discussion. Reforming our personal and corporate tax structure to make it simpler, fairer, and generally lower is crucial in attracting new businesses to our state and allowing our existing businesses to survive and thrive. Centralized sales tax collections and the possibility of a fuel tax increase coupled with reforms to the Department of Transportation & Development are ideas already being discussed by policymakers. It appears that the state budget will once again be facing shortfalls due to decreased revenues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, so lawmakers will likely be forced to make tough cuts to state programs or rely on a potential federal stimulus to fill budget gaps.

Expanding access to affordable and reliable high speed internet remains a top priority for District 22 and all of rural Louisiana, and the state legislature must build on the accomplishments of last year until every citizen in the state has access to broadband. Ensuring the integrity of our elections at the state, local, and national level must become a legislative priority for state governments around the nation. Although Louisiana has for the most part done a good job protecting our elections, we must not let our guard down by giving in to the far Left’s demands to expand mail-in voting or allow electronic voting machines and software to be hacked or tampered with.

Continuing the legal reforms started last year and shaking off our designation as a “judicial hellhole” is critical to lowering personal and commercial auto insurance rates, and a significant factor in protecting key industries such as timber and oil & gas that are so important to the citizens of District 22.  Personally, I am considering legislation that would potentially reform the way insurers handle property damage claims for homeowners and commercial properties. I have received dozens of complaints from District 22 residents regarding the handling of their claims following Hurricane Laura in August of 2020. The fact that thousands of Louisianans are still fighting with their insurance carrier almost five months after the storm is just unacceptable and must be addressed prior to future catastrophic events that are an inevitability in Louisiana. 

Of course, pursuing a proper response to the covid-19 virus in a manner that preserves public health and safeguards individual liberties remains a priority for me. It is also imperative that we continue to advance conservative values and fight for our constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom to worship, and our 2nd amendment right to bear arms. Unfortunately, it appears that it may also become necessary to attempt to pass legislation to defend freedom loving citizens against dangerous and radical ideologies such as critical race theory, intersectionality, LGBTQ extremism, and labeling as “domestic terrorists” anyone who fails to cave to the demands of the mainstream media and the “woke” adherents of political correctness who regrettably wield power in our broken system.

I am happy to discuss any of these issues with the citizens of District 22 that I am honored to represent. You can reach me at (318)765-9606 or via email at gfirment@legis.la.gov. Thank you and God Bless.