Lt. Gov. addresses Chamber of Commerce

Wade McIntyre
Jay Dardenne

Guest speaker and Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne gave members of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce his take on where the state is now, and what to expect from him as the second in command of state government during an address to the organization membership last week.

Dardenne characterized the legislature’s task of balancing the state’s budget this year “as dramatic as its ever been,” but said “we will get it the job done and have a balanced budget as required.”

The process of drawing up new voting district lines based on the new census results could prove even more of a problem for the legislative body.

“It is a process that is both personal and persnickety,” Dardenne, a former legislator himself, said.

The state’s loss of a congressional seat will make redistricting even more painful for some members in the House of Representatives, the Lt. Gov. noted.

Dardenne suggested voters got a look at how he will operate as Lt. Governor when he delayed taking office by about a week in order that acting secretary of state Thomas “Tom” Schedler could be sworn in as Sec. of State, succeeding Dardenne at that post, without the state having to have a special election.

Dardenne said avoiding the special election saved taxpayers about $6 million. The move allows Schedler, who was appointed first assistant secretary of sate in December 2007 by Dardenne, to serve as secretary of state until the next regularly scheduled election.

“I am in the business now of selling and marketing Louisiana,” Dardenne said of his role as Lt. Governor and charged with running the state tourism program.

He characterized his job as “really kind of easy,” and promised, “I’m not going to screw it up.”

No state in America has more culture and art opportunities that Louisiana, he said, while noting that the arts and culture budgets are hit “very, very hard” in economic downturns.

Dardenne  gave no specifics, but said his office will unveil a new brand for the state  “in a couple of weeks.” Presumably it will include promotions for the states wife range of popular state parks, and state libraries and museums, as well as tourism attracts around the state.

The Department of Tourism will be distributing millions of dollars to parish affected by the BP oil spill to be spent on promoting the state and tourism, Dardenne said.

Local parishes will have a great deal of flexibility in spending their funds, once they provide a plan of course that is approved by the department, Dardenne said.

“We’re an incredibly resilient state,” he said, “literally the happiest state in the nation.”

Dardenne said love of land, cuisine and musical variety in the state are part of the reason the state came out happiest in America in a Science Magazine poll.

The state’s unique blend of religious zeal and joie de vivre that manage to co-exist with each other is a combination not found in most other states, he said.