Redistricting main topic at annual Legislative Breakfast

Published 8:50 am Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Congressional redistricting, a brief budget overview and Medicare reimbursement for counseling were among topics discussed at Tuesday’s Legislative Breakfast, an initiative of Family and Youth presented by Lake Charles Toyota.

“This Legislative Breakfast is a great opportunity to connect citizens with our Southwest Louisiana delegation,” said Julio Galan, President and CEO, Family and Youth Counseling Agency, Lake Charles. “It gives them the chance to engage with our Southwest Louisiana citizens, and our citizens get an opportunity to hear more about the upcoming legislative session.”
This year, a special session will be convened Feb. 1-20 to discuss and vote on redistricting.
“For the last year, my life has been consumed with the redistricting process,” said State Rep. Les Farnum, District 33. “I’ve travelled all over the state. I’ve found that most people don’t understand that districts are drawn by population (based on the last available census results). Sometimes, we don’t have a choice where districts get moved.”
Farnum said this is the first time the congressional districts will be redrawn since 1994, and several maps are on the table and up for discussion, with the Southwest Louisiana delegation favoring staying in district three and not letting congressional district four come any farther south.
Sen. Mark Abraham, District 25, said the districts of senators, who will term out in two years, could disappear. Districts will collapse in one part of the state and expand in another.
“You could lose one in north Louisiana and it could come back in Southeast Louisiana,” Abraham said.
He said it’s not feasible to draw a line that’s 300-miles long to ensure a majority-minority district. He believes, ultimately, the courts will have to decide the issue.
Abraham, a member of the joint legislative budget committee, opened the meeting with a brief budget overview, detailing the state’s surplus and the millions of dollars flowing into Louisiana through the infrastructure package and American Rescue Plan.
“We can’t get too excited about that,” he said. “Without that money, let me make this perfectly clear; we won’t be able to balance the budget. Just because we have that money doesn’t mean we’ll have it in future years.”
After delegates introduced themselves, the audience was invited to ask questions.
Mental health counselor Bruce Plauche noted Louisiana’s insurance reimbursement cap compared to other states and the dearth of providers. “As a counseling community, we’re being flooded,” Plauche said. “There aren’t enough providers. I haven’t been able to take a new client in about two years.”
He thinks one of the reasons is because the Louisiana Medicaid payment for an individual session is $53. Texas pays $92, Arkansas pays $95 and Mississippi pays $120 for an individual session, he said.
“McNeese is pumping out counselors right and left. We’re just not seeing them practice in the area because they can make so much more money in other states,” Plauche said.
Abraham agreed. He said the Department of Health has kept Medicaid payments low, lower than other states. Additional monies in the form of supplemental payments typically go to hospitals and clinics.
“For the last year, the Department of Health has been working on increasing the Medicaid rates and doing away with a lot of the supplemental payments, more of a money-following-the patient formula,” he said.
State Sen. Jeremy Stine, District 27, told about a recent bill co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. John Kennedy that would allow governments to use unspent pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Act to provide relief for natural disaster victims, thus freeing up money here in other parts of the state that’s not being used, particularly for housing.
Other legislative delegates at the breakfast were State Representatives Ryan Bourriaque, District 47; Troy Romero, District 37; Phillip Tarver, District 36; and Brett Geymann, District 35. Family & Youth is a nonprofit that provides programs and services dedicated to advocacy, counseling and education for the people of Southwest Louisiana.

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