Archive for the ‘Louisiana Legislature’ Category

Ruston Native Wins National Travel Award




BATON ROUGE, La. – The U.S. Travel Association named Louisiana Office of Tourism Assistant Secretary Kyle Edmiston their State Tourism Director of the Year for 2017 during the annual Education Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) conference held this year in Minneapolis, MN. ESTO is the premier annual professional development gathering for destination marketing professionals.

“It’s no surprise Kyle received this prestigious award,” said Louisiana Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “Five years of record-breaking visitation numbers to Louisiana and new, exciting initiatives rolled out to increase the visitor’s experience are just a few reasons this award is well-deserved. I also want to applaud our tourism staff, travel partners, and the U.S. Travel Association for working with us to attract new and returning visitors to get that unique, authentic Louisiana experience.”

“Louisiana tourism numbers are stronger than ever thanks to Kyle and his team at the Louisiana Office of Tourism, and this award is an acknowledgement of his years of outstanding work and commitment to our industry,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Kyle’s forward thinking commitment to increasing international and out-of-state visitation to Louisiana has done wonders for the state’s economy. Quite simply, he is proof that state tourism promotion works. Kyle’s incredibly effective advocacy for travel to Louisiana has greatly benefited not just the people of Louisiana, but the entire southern region and our nation’s economy as a whole.”

In his role as Assistant Secretary, Edmiston oversees the Louisiana Office of Tourism’s promotion, marketing, and selling the state as a desired travel destination to domestic and international visitors. Under Edmiston’s oversight, Louisiana has seen record-breaking numbers each year for visitation, spending, and tax revenue generated for the state. Since 2012, the number of visitors to Louisiana has doubled, from 24.3 million in 2012 to 46.7 million in 2016. During that same time, visitor spending increased from $10.1 billion to $16.8 billion and annual tax revenue generated for Louisiana increased from $719 million to $1.04 billion.

Edmiston was instrumental in bringing a renewed focus on the international traveler, leading to an increase of 36 percent in international visitation in 2015, the second-highest of any state. Additionally, Edmiston worked tirelessly to bring the U.S. Travel Association’s premier travel marketplace, IPW, to New Orleans in 2016. As part of the events for IPW, he worked with CVBs and travel partners around the state to coordinate seven familiarization trips for tour operators and media reaching every corner of Louisiana.

To further promote and increase international visitation to Louisiana, Edmiston collaborated with a team of industry influencers to land new, direct air service into New Orleans. In March 2017, British Airways began direct service four days a week from London’s Heathrow Airport to Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. Starting in November, British Airways will increase service to five days a week. Then, in May 2017, Condor Airlines began flying seasonal flights, May through September, from Frankfurt, Germany, to New Orleans. This new air service are the first direct flights from Europe to fly to New Orleans since being suspended following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Also under Edminston’s leadership, the Louisiana Office of Tourism received six national awards including: State Tourism Office of the Year; a Gold Adrian Award in Digital Marketing Excellence for Destination Recipe Video Series; three Mercury Awards for Best Travel Website, Best Social Media Campaign and Judges’ Choice for Best Overall Campaign for Destination Recipe Video Series; and an American Advertising Award—Judges’ Choice Digital Marketing for Louisiana Libations.

On a national level, Edmiston is the immediate past chairman for Travel South USA’s board of directors and serves on the board of directors for Brand USA and the Southeast Tourism Society. He also serves on U.S. Travel Association’s board of directors executive committee.

“Kyle has been the ultimate state partner for New Orleans. Never before have we had so many joint partnerships, international successes, and such a united approach to presenting and innovatively marketing New Orleans and Louisiana together to the world. No one has ever been as deserving of an award as this recognition of Kyle,” said New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Stephen Perry.

Mark Romig, Chairman of the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association Board and President and CEO of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp., praised Kyle for his accomplishments and successes. “We could not be more proud of Kyle and his accomplishments. He is one of the first state directors to partner Brand USA with our fellow Louisiana DMOs to create a cooperative international marketing effort which, in one year, increased our international business 34 percent! In the five years since Kyle has led the Office of Tourism under the direction of the Lieutenant Governor, Louisiana has set new records each year for visitation, economic impact and state tax revenue generated. As you know, that’s not an easy feat in today’s economic environment, and our year ahead looks even more promising.”

“The growth our Louisiana tourism industry has seen is nothing short of remarkable and has come as a direct result of Kyle’s leadership, creativity and desire to create strong, lasting partnerships in both domestic and international marketing,” said Jill Kidder, President and CEO of the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association. “In his more than five years in the leadership role, the Louisiana Office of Tourism has steadily set new records, including a nearly 45 percent growth in state tax revenue generated by the industry. These significant accomplishments under Kyle’s leadership have raised the profile of Louisiana’s tourism industry in the eyes of our elected officials and continue to successfully communicate the industry’s strong return on investment.”

“Kyle has played an important and major role in leading the State’s tourism efforts and promoting Louisiana as the culinary and cultural destination. We wouldn’t be where we are today without his expertise and we look forward to working together with him on many more endeavors.” Paul J. Arrigo, CDME, Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO.

“Kyle is a tremendous leader in Tourism and I am proud to call him my friend. He has great vision, and relationships across the country which benefit us all,” said Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission President and CEO Ben Berthelot. “Most importantly, he always answers the phone when I and colleagues across the state call, which is most appreciated. All of us in Lafayette, the Happiest City in America, congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.”

“Assistant Secretary Kyle Edmiston has a heart for promoting everything that is unique in Louisiana. He consistently reaches out to tourism partners across Louisiana and creates programs and partnerships to bring out the best of who we are as a state,” said Shelley Johnson, executive director of the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A native of Ruston, LA, and graduate of Louisiana Tech University, Edmiston served as Director of Alumni Relations at Louisiana Tech and President and CEO of the Ruston-Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he led efforts increase visitation to Ruston and Lincoln Parish.

“Kyle could not be more deserving of this honor. He has been a friend and mentor to me for about 15 years, dating back to his pre-tourism days. His rise within the industry has been fascinating, and is a testament to his passion for travel and tourism. His display of industry knowledge and unending desire to not be satisfied with the status quo make him respected industry wide,” said Travis Napper, President and CEO of Ruston-Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“This award speaks to the leader that Kyle has been for Louisiana’s tourism industry. I had the pleasure of working with Kyle while he was President and CEO of the Ruston Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I saw his dedication to our industry every single day,” said Timothy Bush, President and CEO of Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou. “Since becoming the Assistant Secretary, he has continued to be a strong advocate and positive voice for promoting Louisiana and all that it has to offer. Kyle is a shining example of an industry leader. I’m very proud to call him a friend and mentor.”

A panel of state and U.S. territory tourism directors nominate candidates for State Tourism Director of the Year. Three finalists are then selected by ballot. The U.S. Travel Association’s National Council of State Tourism Directors votes on the award prior to ESTO.


Gov Bel Edwards Vetoes Free Speech on Campus


Governor vetoes bill targeting free speech regulation on college campuses


A bill touted as a way to prevent the disruption of campus speakers was vetoed Monday by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The bill would have required management boards for LSU, Southern University and other schools to spell out policies aimed at protecting campus speech, “including without limitation and opinions they (students) find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive.”

Schools would be required to outline free speech rights during freshman orientation.

In his veto message, the governor said the legislation is not needed.

“This bill is a solution in search of a problem that creates a long, detailed structure for the evaluation of the freedom of expression on college campuses,” Edwards said.

Harris said the bill stemmed in part from the disruption of conservative speakers at the University of California at Berkeley and elsewhere.

Southern U Issues Surface


Southern University warned it could lose accreditation needed to issue degrees, receive federal grants


Southern University was warned last week that it could lose its accreditation that is required for the school to offer degrees and receive federal dollars.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges placed Southern University on a warning list during its June board meeting. SACS is one of the six major accrediting bodies in the U.S. for higher education institutions.

Southern received the sanction because the school missed benchmarks related to its faculty, student achievement, “institutional effectiveness,” and student complaints.

Bel Edwards’ Fuel Tax Out of Gas


Controversial, long-shot bid to raise Louisiana’s gasoline tax dies quietly

BY WILL SENTELL | May 31, 2017 – 4:30 pm

The five-month campaign to upgrade Louisiana’s jammed roads and bridges by raising the state gasoline tax died with little fanfare Wednesday in the Louisiana House.

In a post on Facebook, the lawmaker said he is “not willing to force my colleagues to waste their time on voting on an issue when it will not pass.”

The action made official what lawmakers have said for weeks: convincing two-thirds of the House to endorse a major tax increase was a near impossible challenge in a session dominated by state financial problems.

Backers needed at least 70 votes to send the bill to the Senate, and unofficial headcounts were said to be in the 50’s and low 60’s at best.

Another Bel Edwards Tax Bill Defeated


A bill that would have replaced the current graduated corporate income tax rate with a flat rate, coupled with corporations losing their right to deduct their federal tax payments on their state tax returns was defeated this afternoon in the Louisiana House.

The vote was 58 yeas and 31 nays, but needed 70 votes to pass.

See here who voted how.

Gas Tax Hike Vote Delayed


Gas tax debate on hold as bill aimed to raise $510M struggles to drum up support


In a new sign the bill faces huge obstacles, a $510 million gas tax hike plan scheduled for Louisiana House debate Wednesday was expected to be delayed until at least May 31.

The measure, House Bill 632, was narrowly approved last week by the House Ways and Means Committee and is on the House calendar for debate Wednesday. But backers remain well under the two-thirds majority needed for approval – at least 70 votes in the 105-member Louisiana House.

The session ends on June 8, which means another delay makes final approval of a bill that already faced steep odds even more remote.

Bill in LA Legislature to Change Jackson Hospital Board


A bill that would change the makeup of the Jackson Parish Hospital Board of Directors is working its way through the Louisiana Legislature this session.

Senate Bill 219, authored by Senator Jim Fannin (District 35), has passed the Louisiana Senate unanimously, and was favorably reported out of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Health and Welfare. It is currently pending final House passage.

The bill would reduce the number of board members from seven to five, and would require certain minimum qualifications to be a board member. The members would serve six year terms.

From the bill:

…who shall be qualified voters and residents of the parish and shall possess the following qualifications: one commission member who shall possess financial expertise as the officer or owner of a bank or group of banks in the parish, one commission member who shall possess legal expertise as a licensed attorney in good standing in the parish who shall not be employed by the district attorney’s office, one commission member who shall possess medical expertise and is a licensed practitioner at the hospital service district hospital in the parish, one commission member who shall possess business or accounting expertise and is a licensed certified public accountant or who holds a master’s degree in business administration and practices in the parish, and one commission member who shall have managerial expertise and is employed by a manufacturer located in the parish of products made from pulp wood or other fibrous substances with more than two hundred employees.

The appointments would be made by the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ), and would take office August 1, 2017.

The present law pertaining to the makeup of the board specifies no minimum qualifications to serve.

Bridges to Nowhere – What your Gas Taxes Buy


Garret Graves Trolls DOTD From The Audubon Bridge

By Scott McKay

From the Congressman’s Facebook came a pretty brutal rebuke to the state’s Department of Transportation and Development, or DOTD…

View from the JJA Bridge connecting Pointe Coupee & West Feliciana Parishes (taken earlier this week). One or two cars crossed the entire time we were out there – we could have had a picnic or played some short-court tennis using the center line as an imaginary net.

Point is this bridge just doesn’t have significant volume, and it’s an example of the kind of poor infrastructure investments made when politics supplant data-driven decision making. If we’re going to make progress on our traffic issues in the Capital Region – which is an absolute must – we have to establish a framework that takes a comprehensive view of regional choke-points, identifies projects that will make the biggest impact at the best costs and that integrates technology is the design of better performing traffic systems.

The John J. Audubon Bridge was completed in 2011, under the state’s TIMED program which was supposed to use design-build bidding procedures to get transportation projects completed more quickly. It cost the state $409 million.

Graves’ criticism is correct, on a couple of counts – one of which is actually a validation of the bridge of sorts and a bit of a double indictment of DOTD.

It runs essentially from nowhere to nowhere – Highway 10, which peels off of Airline Highway (U.S. 61) to the east and south of St. Francisville, crosses the river into farmland to the north and east of Ventress and New Roads. The combined population of the three towns is about 7,600 people, and the combined population of West Feliciana and Pointe Coupee Parishes, which the bridge connects, is about 38,000.

So not only is the bridge out in the middle of nowhere, it’s in the middle of nowhere within the middle of nowhere.

So it’s a loser – doubly so – in comparison to what could have happened had the bridge been built somewhere there was more demand. South of downtown Baton Rouge, at this point one bridge won’t even do – the parish presidents in West Baton Rouge and Iberville have been feuding for a couple of years over the proper site for a bridge when they should probably both have one.

But the other point is the real indictment of DOTD. The JJA wasn’t built to alleviate traffic; it was built for economic development purposes.

Has that worked? From an Advocate article back in 2015…

Cantrell, Pointe Coupee’s economic development director, said the parish already has experienced a 5.6 percent hike in sales tax revenue since the bridge’s opening, a number that jumps to 24 percent in New Roads.

Cantrell attributes much of that to the increase in traffic flow the Audubon Bridge has pulled into the parish’s new Super Wal-Mart and other new or expanded businesses.

Cantrell said the parish has also better positioned itself as a shovel-ready area for large industrial developments through the creation of six certified industrial sites on more than 4,000 acres of undeveloped land.

“With that Super Wal-Mart coming in, we’re noticing a lot of traffic come across the bridge into the New Roads area. When I see new faces, I ask where they’re from and about half a dozen tell me they live in West Feliciana,” he said.

As for the daily traffic being under original projections, Cantrell attributes that to the bridge opening nearly 10 years before it was originally supposed to open, in 2020.

“We never had a grand opening where we got all the press about it,” Cantrell said. “I think that hurt to some extent. Over time, people had to find it.”

West Feliciana Parish hasn’t reaped the same economic rewards as Pointe Coupee so far, but the bridge and a new business growth plan could soon change that.

“There are two perspectives that are really important to identify when talking about this,” said Bettsie Norton, West Feliciana Parish’s economic development director. “Has there been a lot of traffic on the bridge? No, there has not. Numbers don’t lie. But you have to understand the long-term perspective for the economic development strategy for our parish.”

There is no particular difference between two years ago and now. Nobody is building any major developments in St. Francisville or New Roads as a result of the bridge. So as an economic development incentive this isn’t an unquestioned winner by any means.

That said, it’s a fair point that the JJA isn’t built to facilitate economic development now; there isn’t enough population in Pointe Coupee or West Feliciana yet to move the needle. A 5.6 percent hike in sales tax revenue in Pointe Coupee Parish is the very definition of minimal, if you compare such a number with a similar increase in, say, Ascension or Iberville Parishes – not to mention East Baton Rouge.

The bridge gets about 3,000 or so cars a day going over it. Compare that with Highway 1 in Plaquemine, which does about 15 times that traffic. Does anybody really believe the economic development effects of a bridge to nowhere would outstrip those of a potential location where you could couple economic development with traffic alleviation to boot?

West Baton Rouge and Iberville Parishes have lots of developable land, but without transportation connections to population centers you’re not going to get the kind of economic development you want in either place. Everyone knows it, which is why West Baton Rouge and Iberville are fighting over the chance to get the next bridge.

What’s worst about this is the JJA really wasn’t all that bad an idea. It isn’t a boondoggle like it’s been presented as; it’s a beautiful, terrific piece of infrastructure. And over the long haul it’s not a sure thing the projections which said by 2040 there will be 22,000 cars a day going over that bridge will end up optimistic (the bridge was supposed to be getting 4,000 a day by now, a number of which it’s short). It’s not that this bridge was so terrible, it’s that the other bridges which should have been built already weren’t. DOTD has some 4,700 employees and nobody seems to know what they do all day, and DOTD spends somewhere between 11 and 45 percent of its funding on actual roads.

This is a poorly-run agency. It’s been a poorly-run agency for a very long time, so it isn’t just John Bel Edwards’ fault. The difference is that Edwards and his DOTD secretary Shawn Wilson are running around the state demanding more gas tax dollars to fund the roads and bridges Louisiana should already have.

Julie Stokes Voted to Double Your Gas Tax & Also Wants to be State Treasurer


By a one vote margin, the 17 cent gas tax hike was voted out of the Louisiana House Ways & Means Committee this afternoon. Had it been defeated in committee, likely it would have been dead for the session.

Four Republican State Representatives Just Voted To Double Your Gas Tax Today

One of those four GOP votes was Julie Stokes, from Kenner.

She also wants to take John Kennedy’s place as State Treasurer. Here’s her Facebook page.

Julie Stokes for State Treasurer

Another Bel Edwards Tax Bill in Trouble


Melinda Deslatte‏ @MelindaDeslatte (AP reporter – Baton Rouge)
10:14 AM – 15 May 2017

The bill to enact state sales tax on services again pulled from Ways & Means debate calendar. Won’t be heard today. Will it ever be?