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By Tyler Bridges, Staff writer
  
State Rep. Walt Leger III will be online Thursday at 1 p.m. to chat with Lens readers about issues before the Legislature, particularly those facing New Orleans.
 
Leger, an attorney who represents maritime clients, is a second-term Democrat from New Orleans. He’s the speaker pro tem and will be in the middle of any major issues affecting New Orleans during the legislative session.
 
Those issues include:
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s request for $100 million in state construction funds to create a Civic Complex out of the former Charity Hospital building.
  • The mayor’s request that New Orleans voters be given the chance to raise property taxes for police and fire services. That’s House Bill 111, sponsored by Leger.
  • The mayor’s request that the city be allowed to cut weeds on blighted property and charge the owner for the work. That’s House Bill 339, also sponsored by Leger.
  • A bill to authorize the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to undertake an expansion. (House Bill 788, sponsored by Leger). The governor’s budget proposes to borrow $50 million from the convention center’s coffers to pay for health care and higher education.
Other key issues in the session include:
  • Passage of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s $25 billion state budget. Critics complain that Jindal wants to raid various trust funds to pay for the state’s daily operations.
  • An effort to kill or stymie a lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East. The lawsuit seeks to force oil and gas companies to restore Louisiana’s eroding coast. State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, is leading the charge against the authority’s lawsuit.
  • Efforts led by conservatives to upend the state’s Common Core curriculum.

Article excerpts:

"If you're a civic leader searching for a formula on how to transform a city into an exciting hub for entrepreneurs, come down to New Orleans."

"Civic leaders are determined to make New Orleans a world-class leader in water-related technologies.

"You have to love, worship and respect water if you live with water," said state Rep. Walter Leger III, a New Orleans Democrat and House speaker pro tem. "How we handle the coastline is the challenge of our generation.""

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.

Article excerpt:

"Key to the plan is Leger's HB 788 to allow the convention center to exceed its bonding capacity in order to finance bonds, which, in combination with state capital outlay money, could raise $125 million to $175 million that would be used to attract $800 million to $1 billion in private investment. Leger said the convention center would pledge revenue generated from the hotel-condo-retail project to pay off the bonds and to not affect the state's debt limit. "We're hoping everyone gets what they want this year," said Leger. "It's too big an opportunity to let this go by.""

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.

Rep. Leger Recognized for Contributions to Community Development at the Novogradac New Markets Tax Credit Conference

Louisiana Rep. Walt Leger was named the 2013 State Legislator of the Year by the Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits for his outstanding contributions in the community development field.

Rep. Walt Leger was recognized for his involvement in the Louisiana New Markets Jobs Tax Credit program, which is expected to protect jobs in Louisiana and attract more than $1 billion in investment to the state. With an unwavering focus on strategic investments and community development, Rep. Leger’s initiatives have significantly enhanced economic and educational opportunities for Louisiana’s population.

Rep. Leger, along with other honorees, will be presented his award at the Sixth Annual Community Development Awards ceremony before hundreds of community development professionals attending the Novogradac New Markets Tax Credit Conference in New Orleans on Oct. 10. 

The Community Development Awards honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the field of community development. Community development entities (CDEs) that have made exceptional qualified low-income community investments are also being recognized at the ceremony for their investments.

“This year’s awardees have shown dedication to strengthening the economic vitality of our nation’s distressed communities through their commitment to the new markets tax credit at the federal, state, and local level,” says Michael J. Novogradac, managing partner of Novogradac & Company LLP. “I congratulate the winners and look forward to celebrating their contributions to their communities at the upcoming New Markets Tax Credit Conference.”

 

The Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits is a national monthly publication read by affordable housing, community development and renewable energy professionals who turn to its pages for industry news and commentary. The Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits covers the low-income housing tax credit, property compliance, valuation, tax-exempt housing bonds, new markets tax credit, renewable energy tax credit, historic tax credits and HUD programs.

For further information on the Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits or the Community Development Awards, please contact Teri Baker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Legislative Priorities Help Create Vibrant New Development

Walt joined his colleagues and representatives from The Domain Companies to break ground on the first phase of the South Market District. The $200 million mixed-use development inside the Enterprise Zone in Downtown New Orleans represents thousands of jobs, the expansion of retail, the revitalization of prime real estate, and a boost in workforce housing. 

Walt carried the legislation that helped make the South Market District a reality. The project is a prime example of how making smart investments can yield exponential returns in the growth of our economy and the quality of life in our community. 

"I am so proud to see this important project moving forward," said Rep. Leger. "This major retail and residential development, and the capital investment and job creation that go along with it, would not be possible without outstanding support from the State of Louisiana, and the support of my legislative colleagues.  By extending the Enterprise Zone legislation to include Transit Oriented Developments, like this one along our new streetcar line on Loyola Avenue, we have supported a project that will be a major economic development driver in the continued renaissance of our great City and the region."

By Andrea Shaw, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 

Eight years after Hurricane Katrina decimated metro New Orleans, elected officials, community activists and religious leaders gathered Saturday to recognize the region's resilience. But more importantly, they urged expedient action on rebuilding the state's fragile coastline and addressing the impacts of climate change.

"We have a moral obligation to future generations to insure that tragedies like Hurricane Katrina do not happen again,'' said Norma Jane Sabiston of the Climate Action Committee Louisiana.

The call came during the Interfaith Prayer Breakfast, which commemorated the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The event was held at the Treme Community Center.

Sabiston said that New Orleans knows well the effects of climate change from rising sea levels and a disappearing coastline and an increased frequency of storms.

"In the past eight decades, Louisiana has lost 1,880 square miles of coastal marshes or an area about the size of Manhattan,'' she said. "It is land that Louisiana and our nation cannot afford to lose.'' 

Katrina's devastation, that killed 1,833 people, and residents' devotion to the region and each other will always make August a sacred time, state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.

"We lost so much eight years ago but we never lost two things. We never lost faith and we never lost hope,'' Leger said.

Disasters cost. Last year, taxpayers each paid $1,100 for response to natural disasters, such as wildfires and Superstorm Sandy, with the government spending $100 billion, he said. Those cost will continue to rise and Louisianans made more vulnerable unless the coast is rebuilt. He pointed out how with continued increases in sea level, New Orleans could be an island by 2050, according to experts.

"We must do something about this situation by taking the right steps and making the right investments. Not only can we build these sustainable communities, not only can we protect future generations from superstorms, not only will we be prepared to deal with what comes ahead but we can create jobs. We can grow our economy,'' he said.

Award recognizes leaders for their efforts in promoting access to capitaland economic development in states across the country

WASHINGTON, DC, August 15, 2013 – Louisiana Speaker Pro TemporeWalt Leger III was honored this week with a Champion of Small Business award from the National Coalition for Capital. 
 
Representative Walt Leger II and 24 fellow legislators and officials from across the nation were recognized for their leadership at the annual National Coalition for Capital AwardsCeremony on August 12th in Atlanta, Georgia.  Champion of Small Business Awards recognize individuals for demonstrating leadership in supporting policies and initiatives designed to promote access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs, especially those in economically distressed communities.
 
“This award recognizes Representative Leger’s important work to preserve and create jobs through access to capital policy that helps Louisiana small businesses grow and develop,” said Michael Votta, President of the National Coalition for Capital.  “Representative Leger has demonstrated he is a champion of small business, and his efforts will have an enduring positive impact on Louisiana.”
 
Representative Walt Leger was elected in 2007 as the Representative for District 91 in New Orleans. During his time in office he has served on a number of committees and now serves as the Speaker Pro Tempore for the Louisiana House of Representatives. He aggressively pursues the development of homegrown industry and entrepreneurship. As bill sponsor, he led the 2013 expansion of Louisiana’s precedent-setting state new markets program. Building on Louisiana New Markets’ impressive track record of job creation and nation leading per capita investment, Rep. Leger advocated tirelessly for the 2013 expansion.  Rep. Leger’s track record of supporting access to capital and job growth continued to build with his strong backing at every stage.
 
“Now more than ever, it’s critical that elected officials do their part to advance innovative access to capital policies that allow small businesses to grow and prosper,” said Representative Leger. “I am honored to be among those recognized for supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs as they strive to preserve and grow jobs.”
 
The National Coalition for Capital hosts an annual awards ceremony during the week of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit to recognize individuals for taking a leading role in fostering access tocapital for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
 
About the National Coalition for Capital
The National Coalition for Capital (NCFC) is a non-profit, nationwide coalition of leaders supporting economic development and job creation through long-term access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs.  To learn more about NCFC, visit www.nationalcoalitionforcapital.org.
 
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By Jeremy Alford, Gambit Weekly

In the all-important 35-and-under demographic, the New Orleans legislative delegation holds its own with four young and restless Democrats. No other regional delegation has as many members who are closer to the bounce than the boom.

And while some might think that translates into a lack of seniority, these 35-and-unders were first elected to the Louisiana Legislature at much younger ages. Today, they help the New Orleans region maintain a competitive power ranking in the Senate and a healthy lead in the House, based on years of service.

Most are term-limited in 2020. That means their 2015 re-election bids and subsequent four-year terms — should they seek and win re-election — will be their last in their current posts. But don't count them out; each has enough political experience and gravitas to advance. All are positioned to move up.

The most interesting storyline belongs to House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, who tells Gambit he has his sights on the big gavel in 2016. "I will absolutely be a candidate for speaker," he says, assuming the best for the next two years.

In the all-important 35-and-under demographic, the New Orleans legislative delegation holds its own with four young and restless Democrats. No other regional delegation has as many members who are closer to the bounce than the boom.

And while some might think that translates into a lack of seniority, these 35-and-unders were first elected to the Louisiana Legislature at much younger ages. Today, they help the New Orleans region maintain a competitive power ranking in the Senate and a healthy lead in the House, based on years of service.

Most are term-limited in 2020. That means their 2015 re-election bids and subsequent four-year terms — should they seek and win re-election — will be their last in their current posts. But don't count them out; each has enough political experience and gravitas to advance. All are positioned to move up.

The most interesting storyline belongs to House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, who tells Gambit he has his sights on the big gavel in 2016. "I will absolutely be a candidate for speaker," he says, assuming the best for the next two years.

Other sources indicate that Leger, who turned 35 June 22, also has opened up to the possibility of running for statewide office in 2015, most notably attorney general. He's working closely with a communications team, and a revamp of his campaign website is said to be in the works.

"Certainly I've talked to people about that race and others," Leger says of the attorney general scenario, "but right now I'm really enjoying my time in the Legislature and being speaker pro tem and all the opportunities that affords me."

His No. 2 spot in the House leadership has allowed Leger to play the role of deal broker, a position that has had him all over the map politically — from helping the administration and Republican leadership position an unpopular budget early in the session to teaming up with fellow Democrats and the conservative "fiscal hawks" to completely reposition it later in the process.

Leger is a lawmaker who has joined the Black Caucus in announcements from the well of the House and then stood in the same spot later to quote former President Ronald Reagan and right-wing tax guru Grover Norquist. He admits some of it has been tongue-in-cheek, but not all. "I consider it part of my job to create opportunities for compromise," he says.

If his politics seem scattered — lawmakers from his own delegation say he walks a "fine line" — then he embodies the rest of the House, which saw its factions divided this session when the hawks broke from GOP mainliners to partner with Dems and the Black Caucus. If he can keep his balance, Leger is likely to be the lead Democrat for speaker in 2016.

Meanwhile, state Sen. J.P. Morrell, 34, has served the longest in this political version of The Breakfast Club, taking a House seat in 2006 before moving to the Senate two years later. His bills have been trending local: a reform commission that includes the city's judicial influencers; reviews of the New Orleans Police Department; Crescent City Connection operations; and restructuring proposals for the Sewerage and Water Board, New Orleans Lakefront Airport and New Orleans Regional Business Park.

Why the local focus? Morrell wants to be mayor one day. "That's not unreasonable. You can put me in the ether," he says, adding, "but not against the current guy." That would be Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who endorsed Morrell in his bids for the Senate.

Rep. Jared Brossett, 28, succeeded Morrell in the House after being mentored by the family matriarch, New Orleans City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, who is now term-limited in District D. Speculation has turned to Brossett as a possible successor to Hedge-Morrell on the council.

Unlike the others, Rep. Helena Moreno, 35, can serve through 2024. She considered running for the council's District B seat in the past and lost a bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2008, but her future could well include the legislative leadership or a statewide office. "You never want to close the door on an opportunity," she says. "I'm casting a wide net."

But by the time some of them make their next moves, they will be nearing 40 — and a new crop of young political talents will be making its way up from the city and looking to make their own moves.

By Marsha Shuler, The Advocate

While tempting, legislators should stop patting themselves on the back for showing independence and bipartisanship during the just-ended 2013 legislation session, Louisiana House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III said Monday.

“While there was a lot of fanfare for how special it was, we really came together just to get by,” Leger said, adding that lawmakers made no significant advances in the budget-writing process.

“I think we kicked the can down the road on the budget,” Leger told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Leger said adoption of a tax amnesty program to generate additional state revenue “doesn’t fix the root problem.” He compared it to “emergency power.”

While tempting, legislators should stop patting themselves on the back for showing independence and bipartisanship during the just-ended 2013 legislation session, Louisiana House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III said Monday.

“While there was a lot of fanfare for how special it was, we really came together just to get by,” Leger said, adding that lawmakers made no significant advances in the budget-writing process.

“I think we kicked the can down the road on the budget,” Leger told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Leger said adoption of a tax amnesty program to generate additional state revenue “doesn’t fix the root problem.” He compared it to “emergency power.”

“I’m glad the state did it” because it helped fund health care and provide extra funds for state colleges and universities, Leger said.

He said getting rid of the Jindal administration’s use of one-time money to fund higher education was a plus as was borrowing money for technical college improvements.

Leger said it would take legislators continuing to work together across party lines to tackle the big issues that remain, such as stable funding sources for health care and higher education and steps to grow the state’s economy.

“Are we going to fall back into our old ways or will there be a renewed commitment to bipartisanship and moderate policies ... against extremism?” Leger said.

Leger said the majority of Louisiana residents are moderates.

“Rather than looking blue or red we should be looking at how purple we are as a state” as decisions are made, Leger said. “We need to figure out a way to work together and then fight over who gets credit for it later.”

Leger said legislators did a couple of things that were “not necessarily bad, not necessarily good.”

He mentioned passage of a proposition that would stabilize hospital Medicaid financing, but eliminate more budget flexibility and the upgrading technical schools to train people for in-demand jobs which committed more state borrowing.

Legislators “missed out this session” by not endorsing Medicaid expansion called for in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, called Obamacare, Leger said. Leger said the state is depriving health insurance to about 400,000 working poor and their children, increasing costs for private insurance holders and failing to help small business owners.

“It’s not an issue that should go away,” Leger said.

Leger said the state Department of Health and Hospitals should submit a waiver to the federal government. “We have not even asked them for permission to devise our own program. I think it’s irresponsible,” Leger said.