Calcasieu and Cameron parishes have two new Republican representatives in the Louisiana House, and they got off to a busy start at their first session.
Rep. Ryan Bourriaque is from Cameron Parish, and Rep. Stuart Moss is from Sulphur. Bourriaque holds the District 47 seat and represents Calcasieu, Cameron and Vermilion parishes. Moss holds Calcasieu’s District 33 seat.
Bourriaque said his first session that ended June 6 proved to be a bigger learning curve than he expected. Oratory isn’t what gets things done, he said, it’s understanding the process.
“I learned, for example, that amendments can kill a good bill,” he said. “Amendments can also turn a bill needing 53 votes into one needing two-thirds (70).” He said that makes it difficult to pass when a number of legislators are no longer in the chamber.
Moss had a successful freshman session, seeing two of his bills gain unusual momentum and three other measures completed. Moss said he finds it humbling to hold the seat that was formerly held by Sulphur Mayor Mike Danahay and Sen. Ronnie Johns.
When he was sworn in while standing on the House floor, Moss said he thought, “Oh, my God, I’m here.”
Bourriaque, 36, sponsored only two bills at the fiscal session and both were approved unanimously and signed by the governor. One transferred $82,000 in a Shrimp Trade Petition Account no longer needed to the Shrimp Marketing and Promotion Fund in order to help promote Louisiana shrimp.
The other Bourriaque bill makes it easier for the state Department of Transportation and Development to participate in public-private partnerships ((P3s) that can be used to construct highways, bridges and other infrastructure projects.
Bourriaque was particularly happy to help get a new Cameron ferry included in an infrastructure bill approved during the session. He said the parish hopes to have a second vessel to keep on standby.
State Sen. Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, is the former representative for District 47. Bourriaque won a Feb. 23 special election to replace Hensgens with 63 percent of the vote.
Bourriaque is the first Cameron Parish representative since the late Rep. Conway LeBleu, who held the office from 1964 to 1988. Bourriaque is also the former administrator for the Cameron Parish Police Jury.
The Cameron Police Jury hired Bourriaque as assistant planner in 2008 and he also worked on disaster recovery. He joined Minvielle & Associates in Abbeville, a consulting firm, in 2010, primarily handling grants. He said that helped him become acquainted with the needs of parishes all along the Gulf Coast.
The Cameron Police Jury approached him in 2012 about returning there as associate administrator to spend a year’s transition to parish administrator. Tina Horn, who held the job for 12 years, was retiring.
Bourriaque said as administrator he learned how to manage coastal, oil and gas and fisheries issues, all of which are relevant to Cameron Parish. He said his psychology degree has helped him in working with people.
The decision to run for the Legislature, which wasn’t easy, came in August of 2018, he said. Cameron had good ideas that often didn’t pan out, he said, and someone told him the parish’s policies were good, but its politics weren’t. The parish wasn’t getting a lot of state assistance from state government on infrastructure and other needs.
“I knew what the needs where in the three parishes in District 47,” he said. Bourrriaque said he discussed the possibility of running for the Legislature with his family and also with Cameron police jurors. He said he needed their blessing, too.
Bourriaque said he had other employment planned, but something else “came out of left field.” He was employed by Venture Global that is doing a lot of work in Cameron and along the Gulf Coast.
He is handling permit work and emergency preparation, which he said is similar to what he did for the Police Jury. The company also has expansion projects planned in Southeast Louisiana, he said.
Bourriaque is married to the former Megan LaGrange, and they currently reside in Grand Chenier, where Bourriaque was born. They have been married 10 years and have three daughters.
He is an LSU graduate and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in natural resources and economics.
Bourriaque said he is proud to be a member of the Southwest Louisiana legislative delegation, “a good delegation that has the district at heart and not their own interests.” Being a Vermilion Parish representative also makes him a member of the Acadiana delegation, he said.
Moss, 56, won a special election on Nov. 6, 2018, in the first primary over two other opponents. Danahay had resigned in order to become Sulphur mayor.
Elective office isn’t new for Moss. He served 12 years as a Sulphur city councilman from 2006 to 2018. He defeated two opponents in the 2006 primary and had no opposition in the next two elections.
Moss is chief executive officer of SSRM/Credit Services. He is a 1981 graduate of Sulphur High School. He received an associate degree in human resources management/personal administration from McKinley College in Fort Collins, Colo.
He is a former member of the Boys Village board of directors and the West Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Sowela Technical-Community College Foundation Board.
Moss is married to the former Ginger Lancaster, and they have four boys.
What Moss thought would be a routine bill turned out to be an engaging piece of legislation. He said he was asked by the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board to help it set up a physical therapy database.
House Bill 368 passed the House 101-1 and was sent to the Committee on Senate and Governmental Affairs. A committee hearing revealed there had been sexual misconduct by some of the state’s physical therapists, and that led to the firing of two Therapy Board attorneys over their handling of sexual misconduct cases.
A committee amendment requires annual reporting on the condition of the practice of physical therapy, the number of sexual misconduct incidents and the training required for handling complaints. Once amended, the measure cleared the Senate unanimously and was signed by the governor.
“I’m just glad my bill was out there to help open the door,” Moss said. Committee members thanked Moss for helping bring back corrective action in handling sexual misconduct cases.
The other measure that gained widespread support was a bill strengthening suicide prevention programs in public schools. Every public, charter and approved nonpublic secondary school will issue student identification cards containing the national and local suicide prevention hotline numbers. In-service training for school employees is also required.
Moss said Ken Brown, a teacher at Sam Houston High School, called his attention to the suicide problem and got him interested in trying to do something. Moss said two children of friends had committed suicide, and if his bill helped save one child’s life the extra effort is worth it. He said he hopes the legislation would let youngsters know someone is listening to their cries for help.
House Bill 90 that became Act 419 by Moss establishes “The Angela Downs Act,” which authorizes a state sales tax rebate for purchases of motor vehicles with modifications related to orthopedic disabilities.
The bill honors the late Angela Downs of Sulphur, who experienced an orthopedic disability. Moss said the act makes it possible to integrate orthopedically disabled people back into society.
Education will be one of his priorities, Moss said, and he wants to see the state budget stabilized. The state also has many infrastructure needs that aren’t being met, he said.