Redistricting Main Topic at Annual Legislative Breakfast – American Press
Congressional redistricting, a brief overview of the budget and Medicare reimbursement for counseling were among the topics discussed at Tuesday’s legislative breakfast, a Family and Youth initiative 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 citizens in Southwest Louisiana, and our citizens have the opportunity to learn more about the upcoming legislative session.”
This year, a special session will be convened from February 1 to 20 to discuss and vote on the redistricting.
“Over the past year, my life has been consumed by the redistricting process,” said State Rep. Les Farnum, District 33. “I’ve traveled all over the state. I’ve found that most people don’t understand that districts are drawn based on population (based on the latest available census results). Sometimes we have no choice where neighborhoods are moved.
Farnum said this is the first time congressional districts will be redrawn since 1994, and several maps are on the table and under discussion, with the Southwest Louisiana delegation preferring to stay in District Three and not let congressional district four come further south.
Sen. Mark Abraham of District 25 said senators’ districts, which will expire in two years, could disappear. Districts will collapse in one part of the state and expand in another.
“You could lose one in northern Louisiana and it could come back to southeast Louisiana,” Abraham said.
He said it is not possible to draw a line 300 miles long to ensure a majority-minority district. He believes that ultimately the courts will have to decide the issue.
Abraham, a member of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, opened the meeting with a brief overview of the budget, detailing the state’s surplus and the millions of dollars flowing into Louisiana from the infrastructure package and the US bailout. .
“We can’t get too excited about it,” he said. “Without this money, let me be perfectly clear; we will not be able to balance the budget. Just because we have this money does not mean we will have it in the years to come.
After the 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 shortage of providers. “As a consulting community, we’re inundated,” Plauche said. “There are not enough suppliers. I haven’t been able to take on a new client for about two years.
He thinks one reason is that 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 pumps advisers right and left. We just don’t see them practicing in the area because they can make a lot more money in other states,” Plauche said.
Abraham accepted. He said the Department of Health has kept Medicaid payments low, lower than other states. Additional funds in the form of additional payments usually go to hospitals and clinics.
“Over the past year, the Department of Health has worked to increase Medicaid rates and remove much of the extra payments, plus a cash formula that follows the patient,” he said.
Newly elected State Representative Jeremy Stine, District 27, spoke about a recent bill co-sponsored by U.S. Senator John Kennedy that would allow governments to use unspent pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Act to help victims of natural disasters, freeing up money here in other parts of the state that is not being used, especially for housing.
Other legislative delegates at the breakfast were State Rep. Ryan Bourriaque, District 47; Troy Romero, District 37; Philippe Tarver, District 36; and Brett Geymann, District 35. Family & Youth is a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services dedicated to advocating, counseling, and educating people in southwest Louisiana.