2 of 3 candidates for Public Service Commissioner appear at forum

Published 4:18 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Living Word Christian Center and the African American Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum for the Louisiana Public Service Commissioner’s race on Tuesday at The Dream Center.

Kevin Guidry, Port of Commissions assistant secretary treasurer for the Lake Charles Port, believes it is vital that Southwest Louisiana residents ensure they take the initiative to make informed votes in the upcoming midterm elections. “This is a very important time in our communities to come out and listen to these types of forums so that we can be informed and educated on the type of things that we need to have in our communities.”

Public Service Commissioner candidates Keith Bodin and Shalon Latour were present at the forum.

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Latour, who has more than 19 years of business experience in transportation, construction, and industrial engineering, said he has a track record of  “representing the people.”

“I encourage everyone to do the research on how well I represent the people,” he said. “I was always there for the people I represented. I’m going to do the job. The job to represent the people of the state of Louisiana.

Bodin said that his experience in the environmental fields of mediation and disposal will aid him as public service commissioner, as his position required him to interact with both public regulation and trucking companies.

He also said his intentions in running for public office is to accurately represent the people.

“I truly want to do this job only for the right reasons,” he said. “I have no party, and I’m not accepting a dime from anybody.”

When asked how he would use his platform to advocate for improved housing availability and affordability, Bodin said the most important change would be to ensure Southwest Louisiana homes are more energy efficient.

“The homes have to be more energy efficient so it can be more accessible for people to be able to afford their house and electric bill,” he said. “So, I’ll try to work with our policy makers to get more funding to help our lower-income housing be more affordable by helping seal the houses up.”

Latour believes using connections and creating local coalitions will be paramount in creating available and affordable housing.

“Someone in this position has a lot of influence, a lot of connections, and a lot of relationships,” he said. “The biggest thing about working in public service is bringing communities together.”

Latour also believes that introducing a diversified energy portfolio into electrical companies will aid in easing the financial burden of utility bills in the region. He believes that with no competition, electrical companies “have no true incentive to help you by any means.”

Bodin said homeowners can reduce their electricity bills by ensuring their homes are properly sealed, as many houses sustained hurricane damage that they cannot see. “Though a home might not take a whole physical beating to the structure with the roof and everything gone, it’s still taking a beating which is making it less sealed, which can cause us to lose energy.”

Bodin also said consumers should not bear the weight of hurricane restoration charges, despite the U.S. Supreme Court maintaining that energy companies have the right to do so. He explained that public service commissioners can make legislative recommendations, but cannot solely enact legislative change.

“Until we can get the lawmakers to change that … we’re, unfortunately, going to be the ones that are biting the bullet,” he said. “I think they should cover at least 25 percent of what is considered storm-related charges.”

Latour agreed it is not moral for consumers to pay storm restoration charges, and said the most efficient way to eliminate or reduce the charges is to petition for legislative change.

“The biggest focus is building a group together to restructure securitization and pass resolutions for the vast majority,” he said. “Truth of the matter is the best thing that we can do is some form of cost-sharing, and that will be the main objective.”

Latour believes that energy competition is beneficial for consumers, and that despite deregulation failing in other states, such as Texas and California, it could be successful in Louisiana. He proposed “a type of hybrid deregulation” and in order to prevent utility monopolies.

Bodin is cautious of deregulation and cited the unfortunate economic repercussions that resulted from deregulation in other states. He believes that intense research is needed before taking decisive actions, and stated that “we need to get some very intelligent people from regulated and deregulated areas,” to ensure the right decision is made.

It is important to Bodin to maintain his loyalty to constituents, and plans to prove this by not financially aligning himself with any corporation. “I’d like to see folks that work in public commission be banned from taking any contributions from a company that they regulate in the state of Louisiana or the United States of Louisiana.”

For Latour, accurately representing his community is paramount. “I represent my people. If I don’t think something is right, and I don’t think it’s going to benefit the people I’m representing, I am going to say it.”

Current Public Service Commissioner Mike Francis was not present for the forum. This is the 2nd Public Service Commissioner Forum in which Francis has been absent.