The Southern Rail Commission, a group that advocates for passenger rail service, has released a briefing book that outlines critical next steps for the proposed passenger line connecting the Baton Rouge-New Orleans corridor. “Baton Rouge and New Orleans by Intercity Passenger Rail” details the pivotal role of Louisiana’s next governor in advancing the project.
“A sense of urgency and strong leadership from the next governor and Legislature is critical to moving this project forward,” says State Representative and Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger III, Commissioner with the Southern Rail Commission. “There are many moving and interconnected parts. The best way to commit all parties and ensure progress is making clear that the goal is to start this service as soon as possible.”
The briefing book includes information on local, state and federal funding sources, as well as case studies from other states that have successfully connected major cities with passenger rail service.
“One of the Southern Rail Commission’s top priority projects is connecting Louisiana’s two largest cities with passenger rail,” says Greg White, the commission’s incoming chairman. “SRC also recognizes the importance of how this project fits into the overall national network of passenger rail that will eventually connect all Southern states.”
The briefing book, which is being distributed to Louisiana gubernatorial candidates, is available online at www.SouthernRailCommission.org.
Earlier this month, leaders of seven southeast Louisiana parishes that comprise the Louisiana Super Region Rail Authority held a press conference calling on the state’s next governor to establish passenger rail service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Southern Rail Commission Chairman Knox Ross also participated in the event.
About the Southern Rail Commission
Established by an act of Congress in 1982, the Southern Rail Commission engages and informs public and private rail interests to support and influence rail initiatives across its member states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. For more information about the Southern Rail Commission please visit www.SouthernRailCommission.org.
LIDEA recognizes the efforts of State Representative and Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger III to support economic development during the 2015 Regular Legislative Session.
Rep. Leger, along with other legislators across the state who are being honored, supported LIDEA’s efforts to provide tools for state, regional and local economic developers to improve the economic health of their respective communities.
Rep. Leger will receive the Legislative Allies award for his efforts to support LIDEA's agenda during floor debates and in committee.
"We recognize the difficulty all of our legislators faced going into the session and are proud to have worked with them to continue to strengthen our economic development tools for greater returns to both the State and local communities, as well as the companies which make the investment in capital and jobs, " stated Rhonda Reap-Curiel, LIDEA Legislative Chair.
"The legislators we recognize this year are representative of those who continue to support our efforts to increase capital investment, increase wages and increase the ability of our citizens to qualify for higher wage jobs in their communities."
The awards are not based solely on scorecard reporting, but on efforts recognized by LIDEA's legislative committee.
Formal presentation of the awards will take place in Baton Rouge on October 20 as part of LIDEA's annual conference.
LIDEA is a statewide professional trade organization whose mission is to increase the effectiveness of individuals involved in the practice of economic development in Louisiana through professional development, public policy advocacy, networking, and collaboration with community and business stakeholders. More information can be found at www.lidea.org.
By Emily Lane, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Leaders out of the seven parishes from Baton Rouge to New Orleans joined Wednesday (Sept. 16) to voice support for a proposed passenger rail line connecting the state's two largest cities -- with stops along the way...
State Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans... said a passenger rail would help relieve congestion on Interstate 10, connect communities and provide better access via affordable transportation to health care and other amenities.
Moreover, he said, a passenger rail would provide better access to new jobs added along the corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge as part of the industrial development renaissance occurring in the parishes there.
Read the full article on NOLA.com here.
The Louisiana Hospital Association (LHA) honored Rep. Leger and some of his colleagues as Champions for Healthcare for the work they have done protecting access to quality care for their communities over the past four years. This past session, Rep. Leger was instrumental in championing for competing the construction of and fully funding the University Medical Center in New Orleans. Leger also serves as co-chair of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Health & Human Services Committee. NCSL is a national bipartisan organization dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of state legislatures.
“We thank these senators and representatives for making patients and hospitals a priority and listening to a majority of their Louisiana constituents who oppose unsustainable healthcare budget cuts,” said LHA President & CEO Paul Salles. “Through their hard work, these Champions for Healthcare helped to avert a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, and they prevented proposed funding reductions for hospital emergency rooms, medically-fragile infants, rural providers and other life-saving services. Louisiana hospitals commend these legislators for their strong leadership on healthcare issues in Louisiana.”
For years Rep. Leger has been spearheading efforts to create a high-quality passenger rail line connecting New Orleans and Baton Rouge. He co-sponsored legislation to create the Louisiana Super Regional Rail Authority, and currently serves as a representative of Orleans Parish on the Commission. The Rail Authority was formed to deliver a project that will yield long term benefits by connecting a growing corridor and providing residents and commuters a reliable, safe and efficient alternative to traveling on the congested interstate.
According to the LSRRA, Passenger Rail Service in the Baton Rouge to New Orleans corridor would provide a number of benefits:
Please join the cause and sign the pledge to support passenger rail.
More at http://www.lsrra.org/.
The Aspen Institute announced that Representative and Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger, III has been selected to join the next class of Rodel Fellows, a highly selective public leadership program designed to bring together the top young 'rising stars' of American political life in a program that fosters bipartisanship, political civility, and opportunities for reflection on the great values of western democracy. The selection process singles out leaders who have established reputations for intelligence, thoughtfulness, and a willingness to reach across partisan divisions in carrying out their public responsibilities.
“It is truly an honor to have been selected to join such an esteemed group of leaders from across the country,” said Rep. Leger. “I look forward to digging in and honing my skills so that I may better serve my constituents and help lead Louisiana to a more prosperous future.”
The Rodel Fellowship program is open by invitation only, to men and women who hold a publicly elected office. Selected annually, each class will consist of 24 Fellows, 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats, identified by the Aspen Institute as America's most promising new public leaders, with reputations for intellect, thoughtfulness, and a commitment to civil dialogue. The two year program consists of at least three weekend-long seminars held at the Aspen Institute's facilities. There will also be week-long seminars in both China and the Middle East where Fellows will meet with regional leaders and learn about the challenges and opportunities those areas pose for the future of America.
The program is led by Mickey Edwards who spent 16 years in Congress as a member of the House Republican leadership, and then taught at Harvard's Kennedy School for 11 years. Mickey's passion is our form of democratic government which depends for its vitality on civil dialog between competing points of view.
In addition to Speaker Pro Tempore Leger, the new Rodel class includes New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Illinois Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Guided by experienced moderators, Aspen-Rodel Fellows will study and discuss a broad range of questions concerning the origin of American values, the tension between principle and compromise inherent in democracy, and the challenges of public leadership. The overseas segments will be a hands-on look at those very different cultures and their ambitions and fears.
The nearly 250 members of the fellowship include members of the President's Cabinet, governors, members of Congress, mayors of many of America's leading cities, statewide officials, and state legislators.
LSU Health New Orleans recognized Rep. Leger for his “superior leadership and exceptional support of fiscal and policy-related issues affecting LSU Health Sciences New Orleans during the 2015 Legislative Session. According to LSU Health New Orleans, Rep. Leger and fellow honored legislators played a critical role in preventing catastrophic reduction to the institution’s base budget. Rep.Leger and his colleagues supported funding to ensure that the LSU Health hospital’ private partners – University Medical Center, Our Lady of the Lake and University Health in Lafayette – had the requisite resources to fulfill their role in training future health care professionals and providing health care to the most vulnerable citizens of our state, as well as funding for programs such as LSU Health New Orleans’ Louisiana Tumor Registry, its Breast and Cervical Health Program, and the Louisiana Cancer Center Consortium.
LSU Health New Orleans Foundation President and CEO Chad Leingang says these first- time awards are significant for several reasons. “No one would deny this past legislative session was extremely challenging on many levels. These six legislators went above and beyond to minimize the negative outcomes LSU Health New Orleans could have faced and instead kept us on a positive path moving forward.”
By Allan Katz and Danae Columbus in the Uptown Messenger
We like politicians who have a plan for New Orleans’s future. State Representative and House Speaker Pro Temp Walt Leger III definitely fits the bill. Though expected to easily win re-election for a third term at the Louisiana Legislature, Leger delivered thought-provoking remarks at his well-attended Audubon Tea Room fundraiser earlier this week that quickly set the tone for his political future, perhaps as a candidate for mayor in 2017.
Walt’s unique path to success has been carved out by generations of Legers. The family’s legacy of service was built on the Mississippi by his great-grandfather who was a ship captain, his river pilot grandfather, and his father Walt Jr., a highly successful corporate and maritime attorney.
Leger already espouses many of the traits we would want in our city’s future leader. He’s a proactive legislator, tough on crime, an advocate for children and families, fights for fairness and promotes juvenile justice, improved education and healthcare. Leger has received numerous awards from good government groups.
By establishing the Third Coast Political Action Committee, Leger is primed to maximize fundraising opportunities. A host of city’s high-profile political donors representing tourism, the legal community, labor and business turned out for the event. Among those spotted were Nancy Marsiglia, Bill Hines, Joe Bruno, Joe Jaeger, Ralph and Susan Brennan, Steve Pettus, Gary Solomon Jr., Steve Perry, Tiger Hammond, Blake Jones, Dan Forman, Nyka Scott, Norma Jane Sabiston, Adrian Bruno, Felicia Kahn, Mac Bauer and Dwight Barnes. Also present were elected officials Jared Brossett, Judge Chris Bruno and fellow legislators Helena Moreno and J.P. Morrell.
Leger had been talked about as a candidate for Attorney General before deciding to seek re-election. He will be one of dozens making their way to qualifying next Tuesday through Thursday either in Arthur Morrell’s office or at the Secretary of State in Baton Rouge. It will be a fun-filled three days with lots of excitement and surprises.
Read the full article in the Uptown Messenger here.
Rep. Leger was honored as a Whole Child Champion by the Childhood & Family Learning Foundation. According to NOLA.com, several people as well as schools were recognized for their contributions in support of the Whole Child, Whole School, Whole Community program recently adopted by the 2015 state legislature.
Read the full NOLA.com article here.
If you’ve been following the news lately, you already know this legislative session was all about the budget- namely, dealing with the projected $1.6 billion deficit for the year beginning July 1. Unfortunately, many other important issues were put on hold as the legislature focused on providing funding to Louisiana's higher education and health care systems. To cap off the already difficult situation, the governor’s gimmicky schemes to nominally avoid breaking his “no-tax pledge” put the basic needs of our state directly in harm’s way.
While the budget shortfall represented one of the largest funding crises this state has faced in more than a quarter century, my goal throughout the session was to increase fiscal responsibility by prioritizing dollars and identifying potential revenue for the government programs and services that yield the largest return for Louisiana citizens. This has been a year of extensive cuts and great challenges, so my objectives met with some successes and some obstacles.
One of the biggest and most offensive distractions this session was the so-called "Religious Freedom" debate. You can click here to read my Op-Ed on the matter published in the April 13 edition of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.
Through all of this difficulty, the positive news is that more money will be invested in our public schools than last year, a new University Medical Center will open and be appropriately funded in downtown New Orleans, and our colleges, universities, and community and technical colleges will not face devastating cuts. All in all, we will persist toward a better day and down a new path after the elections of the fall of 2015.
HERE is the Louisiana House's 2015 Session Wrap Report: http://www.waltleger.com/
BELOW is a snapshot of some of the major issues and outcomes and how new legislation may affect you.
Walter "Walt" J. Leger, III
State Representative, District 91
Speaker Pro Tempore, Louisiana House of Representatives
To avoid the governor’s veto pen and the possibility of a government shutdown, the legislature passed a budget full of compromises, short-term fixes, and, most disappointingly, the SAVE sham. As you’ve probably heard, SAVE creates a fake fee offset by a fake tax credit. If you fail to see the logic in charging a fee that no one actually pays, you are not alone. While fortunately no students will be held responsible for this new “assessment,” the fact that its inclusion was required simply to satisfy the presidential ambitions of Governor Jindal marks a new low in Louisiana politics.
The SAVE bill was a false tax credit. I simply refused to support such a farce, especially considering that I was offering the Louisiana New Markets Job Acts Tax Credit as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit as potential offsets to tax increases. These programs amounted to true offsets that would have benefited the people Louisiana, not false offsets that only benefited the pledge.
Despite the governor’s pretenses, the budget contains several revenue-raising measures, including a 50 cent increase on the cigarette tax, as well as a reduction in some business subsidies. Certain sectors did see increases in funding, notably K-12 education, which received a $50 million bump over last year’s spending.
Since many of the holes were plugged with money that will not be available in the future, expect more budgetary battles to come, but, for now at least, the most catastrophic scenarios have been avoided.
For myself and many of my colleagues, shielding higher education from bearing the brunt of the budgetary woes was the overarching theme of this legislative session. Toward that end, I introduced three bills to protect and increase higher education funding.
HB 323 proposed a constitutional amendment that would have been presented to voters in October. This amendment would have prohibited the governor and the legislature from reducing the total appropriation for higher education below the appropriation for the prior year without a two-thirds majority. It would further have ensured that universities do not lose state funds in the event that their revenue from tuition and fees increases from one year to the next. Although I successfully passed this bill by more than a 2/3 majority vote in the House, the instrument was eventually deferred by the Senate Finance Committee.
On a more positive note, HB 386 is currently awaiting the governor’s signature. It dedicates interest earnings of the Deepwater Horizon Economic Damages Collection Fund to higher education. The legislation stipulated that this funding be truly new- meaning in addition to current state appropriations- not a replacement or way to cut other funds. Furthermore, it ensures that civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and monies received through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process will remain dedicated to our Coastal Master Plan and securing our coast for future generations.
Finally, HB 250, which authorizes additional deposits into the Workforce Training Rapid Response Fund, won approval by the legislature. For more information on how this will benefit our workforce and Louisiana’s community and technical colleges, please watch LCTCS President Monty Sullivan’s Legislative Minute.
With the threat of $600 million budget cuts to higher education in Louisiana, the Student Government of Louisiana State University organized an initiative to evaluate the performance of state legislators annually. I am honored to have made this year's "Honor Roll" with a 100% score.
View the report card here: http://lsuherc.weebly.com/uploads/5/3/1/9/53190299/lsu_herc_2015.compressed.pdf
It’s a given that post-secondary education paves the pathway to the middle class. Moving forward, I am gearing up to continue the fight to protect and support our institutions of higher learning.
The failure of legislation to double the earned income tax credit ranks among my great disappointments for the session. Louisiana is known for having one of the most regressive tax policies in the country. Our lower-income citizens shoulder a disproportionate burden, especially compared to similarly-situated individuals in other states.
I introduced HB70 to increase the earned income tax credit from 3.5 to 7 percent. While this is just one small step in the right direction toward a more equitable tax policy, it could have made a real impact on working families struggling to make ends meet.
It also makes just plain economic sense. Research indicates that lower-income workers tend to re-inject tax breaks directly back into the economy because they use the money for necessary purchases of goods and services. To use San Antonio as a case study, officials there estimated that each dollar spent on the earned income tax credit generates $1.58 in local economic activity. As another benefit, the tax credit is often used for purposes that actually enhance workforce stability, such as repairs to vehicles used for commuting, childcare expenses, and additional education or training.
Watch the video clip below at 2:37:00 to see me urging my colleagues in the legislature to do the right thing: http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Video/VideoArchivePlayer.aspx?v=house/2015/Jun/0608_15_Day33_2015RS_PM
The Editorial Board of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, the US Chamber Foundation, and many others support the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Read NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune Editorial here: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/06/earned_income_credit.html
Read US Chamber Foundation Report here: http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/sites/default/files/publication/edu/ICW_EITCToolkitrdc.pdf
I am proud that I was able to secure bipartisan support and pass an amendment through the House, even though it was ultimately stripped in the Senate.
While my bill was unsuccessful this time around, my resolve to keep fighting for the working families of Louisiana is stronger than ever.
I’m also disappointed to share that HB 725 about the Louisiana New Markets Job Acts Tax Credit did not pass. If you have not already seen it, please read my letter to the editor published in the June 8 edition of The Advocate about the importance of this tax credit. It has a proven track record of stimulating economic growth by supporting the state’s small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Other legislation of note that is improving the economy in communities across the state includes an extension to the tax credit for the rehabilitation of nonresidential historic structures. This popular credit, which has been the catalyst behind countless historic preservation efforts, will now continue until January 1, 2022.
The American Society of Civil Engineers graded Louisiana’s roads and bridges a D and D+, respectively, in their most recent report card. Motorists, however, likely did not need to see this ranking to know that there is a lot of work to be done to improve the state’s infrastructure.
Despite the budget challenges this year, $100 million dollars of additional aid per year were added to the Transportation Trust Fund. Though this amount falls far short of addressing Louisiana’s $12 billion backlog of road and bridge needs, my bill to revise the process by which projects are selected to be included within the Highway Priority Program should help ensure these and all future appropriations are well directed.
HB 742 was developed with the support of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature. It stipulates that proposed projects should be subject to an objective analysis that considers the extent to which the project would enhance accessibility, improve safety (especially during evacuations), stimulate commerce and economic development, foster multimodalism, and protect the environment. In addition, the results of this rigorous screening process would be made public to increase government accountability.
The alliance Transportation for America spotlighted the significance of this legislation in a recent article. Read more about how the new process, slated to go into effect in 2017, puts Louisiana ahead of the curve when it comes to transparency in transportation spending.
Read Transportation for America Article here: http://transportationforamerica.org/2015/06/09/louisiana-legislature-makes-a-paradigm-shift-to-better-prioritize-transportation-dollars-and-restore-public-confidence/
According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the nation. Though we have taken some preliminary steps to control the growth in the state's prison population, widespread systematic reforms are needed. Toward that end, I am pleased to announce the creation of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force. The task force is charged with completing a comprehensive assessment of the criminal justice system and developing research-based policy recommendations. The goal of these recommendations will be reducing correctional populations and associated spending, holding offenders accountable, and reinvesting savings into strategies shown to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.
Another resolution I sponsored, HCR73, has also been sent to the Secretary of State. It requests the Institute on Public Health and Justice to study the issue of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include seventeen-year olds. Currently Louisiana is one of only nine states in the United States that automatically tries seventeen-year-olds as adults. We know from adolescent brain research that teens are significantly different from adults when it comes to impulse control, moral reasoning, and weighing the consequences of their actions. We also know from studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and the US Department of Justice that youth who have been sent through the adult criminal justice system are more likely to offend again than similar youth who remain in the juvenile justice system.
I look forward to hearing the results of each of these investigations and will keep pushing for changes to improve the justice system in Louisiana.
As co-chair of the Coastal Caucus, protecting our coast has been one of my top priorities. I co-authored and shepherded through the Coastal Master Plan, co-sponsored legislation that dedicates Clean Water Act fines associated with BP to coastal projects, and sponsored and passed the annual Coastal Plan. This year, before session, I called on the governor to keep his hands off the Coastal Trust Fund, and I’m proud to say that we protected and preserved this fund for the sacred mission of securing and rebuilding our coast.
At the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, I was honored to co-chair the "Toast to the Coast” presented by the America’s WETLAND Foundation at LSU Tiger Stadium to announce a new restoration project and to honor individuals who have made a difference in the fight to save Louisiana's coast.
In the House, I sponsored HB 352, which is headed to the governor’s desk for his signature. This legislation amends and reenacts approval for land acquisition for integrated coastal protection projects by "acquiring authorities.”