Preserving La’s culture, ideals, potential theme of annual LegisGator luncheon

Local and state legislators gathered to discuss Louisiana’s forward movement following an impassioned legislative session at 18th annual Chamber Southwest Louisiana LegisGator luncheon hosted at L’auberge Casino Resort on Friday.

Last year, they spoke to the state’s recovery following the pandemic and a barrage of natural disasters. This year, they share one sentiment: striving to preserve Louisiana’s culture, ideals and potential through driven bipartisan efforts.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said he came out to “celebrate economic development.” He spoke to bipartisanship in Louisiana, stating the parties are “united by the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” his historic infrastructure legislative package that has brought over $3 billion in funding to the state.

The recent economic successes he highlighted included $5.9 billion in federal funding for Louisiana roads and bridges over the next five years, $1.4 billion in funding for statewide access to affordable high-speed internet and “millions for flood mitigation, billions for coastal restoration.”

He commended state officials for the way the funding has been handled, and the progress that has followed.

“Let’s be clear, this is not just done by the federal government. Y’all are using that money wisely. I can say the state Legislature and the governor met the challenge.”

U.S. Congressman Clay Higgins (R-La.) echoed this, and said legislative efforts have been taken to lead Louisiana to recovery and prosperity across political party lines.

“Whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, a conservative, a moderate, no matter where you fall in this race or that race, you are winners.”

He said he believes Americans are “far more united than we are divided,” and the uniting factor is collaboration towards a common goal.

“We are the citizens of the greatest state in our republic, we love our fellow man, we serve our country, and yes, we have passionate and vigorous debate in order to affirm what we believe is the proper step forward for our state. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re going to do it, ultimately, together.”

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) has similar ideals, and said he believes his Republican colleagues should listen to their Democrat colleagues, and vice-versa.

He also criticized media coverage and commentary that followed conservative legislative wins during the regular legislative session. One example that he alluded to was House Bill 648 — legislation that bans gender-affirming care for minors — which was controversially passed during a rare veto session this summer.

“Unless you’ve been living in your parents’ basement, you know that our Legislature, house and senate, is a majority Republican. The policy preferences of many Louisianians are at odds with the policy preferences of some, not all, but some members of our media. Those members try to hide their preferences behind pious talk of objectivity.”

“The truth of the matter is, state Legislature is where the tough social and economic policy decisions are made.

He told his peers to ignore this coverage, as well as national criticisms on American culture.

“Some of my colleagues in Washington think that America was wicked … that we’re all racist and misogynistic and ignorant, especially in the south. Now look, America is not perfect, but by God we are good. The truth is, most Americans today don’t think that much about race, because they know that souls have no color, and they understand that to a bear, we all taste like chicken.”

U.S. Congressman Mike Johnson (R-La. 4th District) said he believes the nation is at a crossroads, citing the need to “remember the foundational principles.”

“If a nation loses its foundation, it’ll crumble. Right now we are floating in some dangerous seas, choppy waters. The seas are uncharted, we are in unprecedented times … if you look out on the horizon, the skies are even darker.”

He laid out the seven core principles of American conservatism: individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets and human dignity. He believes that these ideals — the subject of his upcoming book — break party boundaries.

“These aren’t necessarily just Republican ideals, these are the ideals that made us extraordinary.”

Alongside discussions of success, U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (R- La. 6th District) spoke to the state’s shortfalls.

“We’ve got some pretty significant problems facing our state right now. You have rankings and polls that show Louisiana at the bottom.”

He referenced CNBC’s “America’s Top States for Business 2023.” Louisiana ranked 49th.

“49th? That’s unacceptable. A state with the assets and the resources that we have… these statistics are not representative of our state’s potential.

Louisiana should be growing alongside the “booming” populations and economies of Georgia and Texas, he said.

“We have the same resources, strengths and assets. Why is our outcome different? It’s not OK, it’s not something any of us should settle for.”

He urged those in attendance to consider the whole of the state while voting in October.

“We don’t all have to like each other…but you know what we need to do? But you know what we need to be doing? We need to be pushing the same election. This election is not just about the cultural war. This election is about the fundamentals of Louisiana’s economy, addressing the highest and lowest on these lists.”

Awards

Graves was named this year’s LegisGator of the Year Award.

The Rising Star Award was presented to Freshman State Sen. Jeremy Stine (R-27th District) for his leadership in insurance reform and support of “the cornerstones of our community,” according to a release from the Chamber.

State Sen. Gerald Boudreaux (D-District 24) was given the Chair’s Award and State Representative R. Dewith Carrier (R-District 32) was given the Governmental Affairs Award.

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