Mayors get lobbying tips in Gonzales

Wade McIntyre
Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux, center, chats with Louisiana Municipal, Association Executive Director Tom Ed McHugh, left, and Gonzales councilmen John Cagnalotti, Kirk Boudreaux and Kenny Matassa. Gonzales played host Wednesday to the fourth of six regional meetings being put on by the LMA this month prior to the upcoming legislative session in Baton Rouge.

Mayors and municipal officials from around the state converged at the Civic Center in Gonzales Wednesday to brush up on their lobbying skills in preparation for the upcoming state legislative session.

The session was the fourth of six regional meetings put on by the Louisiana Municipal Association to be conducted this month.

“We are conducting these meetings as part of a sustained effort to promote the power of membership in our association and provide a vehicle for our members and federal and state leaders to develop a stronger partnership that builds a stronger Louisiana by strengthening its communities,” said LMA President Bill Robertson, mayor of Minden.

Gonzales was represented during the session by Mayor Barney Arceneaux and city councilmen Kenny Matassa, John Cagnolatti, and Kirk Boudreaux. Mayor Brenda Melancon represented Sorrento.

The meeting was designed to give information on how local municipalities can obtain local funding opportunities from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the new federal economic stimulus law. Also on the agenda were a number of state and local issues, and information from the National League of Cities to help local leaders leverage funding with other resources.

The concept of the regional meetings is in its second year, after the association abandoned its annual crawfish boil meeting in favor of a more focused educational and informative sessions around the state.

Among the legislators in attendance Sen. Jody Amedee, Rep. Mert Smiley and Rep. Dale Erdey.

Amedee told the crowd of about 50 attendees that he expected school board issues, the stimulus money and surplus money for roads to be big issues in the legislative session.

The real problems in Louisiana will come next year with a big budget shortfall expected in the state, Amedee said.

Erdey told the group that as a former mayor himself, he understands the overall issues municipalities face.

“We have to know the issues and you have to explain those to us,” Erdey said. “Power and numbers, that’s what it’s all about.”

Attendees were coached in the ABC’s of how a bill becomes law, starting from introduction in the House of Representatives and its first reading and proceeding to presentation in the full House.

They were given nuts and bolts tips such as being advised to designate one employee to read and regularly monitor city e-mail during the legislative session in order to ensure quick mayoral response when the association makes a request.

One mayor’s question about whether municipal officials can take elected officials to lunch under the new ethics laws was answered the affirmative with a caveat; elected officials can entertain legislators because they are elected officials themselves, but the business discussed must pertain to an issue directly affecting the town where they are elected officials.

During a presentation to make the mayors more Internet savvy, the group tracked on line various bills that have already been filed by legislators for the upcoming session.

The association is closely monitoring House Bill 9 which would eliminate sales tax payments for non-profit homeless shelters and lower municipal revenues.