By the time this magazine hits your hands, the 2018 Regular Legislative Session will be under way in Baton Rouge. All local lawmakers agree: this session will be tough. There simply are far too many questions and not nearly enough answers to leave everyone satisfied.
But one local Republican is hopeful that in the midst of the struggle, unity can prevail and people can cross party boundaries to work together to make the decisions we need.
Like all other lawmakers we’ve interviewed in the past few months, State Rep. Beryl Amedee (R-Houma) agrees that this session is more difficult than others because there aren’t many good solutions to the budget shortfalls we face.
But Amedee was vocal in stating that she believes calmer heads need to prevail for anything significant to get done.
“The biggest challenge this session will be the prevailing ugly attitude we are currently experiencing nationwide,” Amedee said. “It’s driven by mass media and compounded by social media. I hope here in Louisiana, we can remember a few things: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. When a person disagrees with you, it doesn’t mean that they hate you. It’s hard to listen well while you’re talking – even harder when you’re shouting. If each legislator is simply here to do our best in representing the people we serve who sent us to Baton Rouge on their behalf, we should be able to respect one another no matter what position we take on any given bill.”
Of course, the tension is because of the state’s budget shortfall – a problem which has plagued us now for more than a half-decade.
Amedee said the problem in starting the process of recovery is that everyone has a different idea for what recovery looks like.
She said the process is a long one and true recovery will happen over time.
“There is no silver bullet that will put our debt to rest and no pot of gold that will fund every beneficial program,” Amedee said. “The way out of this mess is with plenty of old-fashioned hard work! There is no way around it. While we don’t collectively seem to have agreement for major reform, we can improve plenty with a multitude of small, but significant changes. We must require transparency in spending. We must change the government service delivery model used in many of our departments and agencies so that we reduce redundancies and trim top heavy management where we find it. Accountability must be written in to state contracts in such a way that we may easily assess return on investment. We must prosecute fraud and renegotiate long term debt. None of these are quick fixes, but all of these are necessary.”
Aside from the budget, Amedee said she is authoring or co-authoring several bills that she believes will help the people in our area and beyond.
She is working on a bill that will allow parents to teach their own children driver’s ed, as well as another which would allow facility dogs to accompany victims who are testifying in court under certain circumstances. She also would like to pass a resolution urging schools to bring back a true recess period each day, while also working to lighten each student’s load – literally.
“(I have) one to bring awareness about spine and muscle damage to students carrying excessively heavy backpacks,” she said.
In addition to the others listed above, Amedee said she’s also working to start a study concerning the charges hospitals assess to patients, while also looking to try and make EpiPens available in public places – much like AED machines are. She has also signed on as a co-author of a bill that will require insurance coverage for 3D mammography and also changes to long-term managed care to give senior citizens broader ‘age in place’ options.
But while Amedee continues to try and push legislation to help Louisiana’s future, she’s doing so as a woman in a political world that has mostly been a “man’s game” throughout Louisiana history.
Amedee said she never envisioned being a politician as a kid. She wanted to be an administrative assistant or a nun.
But as she got older, politics became a possibility because she said she had a desire to help those in need.
She said she doesn’t think much about being a minority in a predominately male government. She said it’s more important to do the right things for the right reasons at the right times.
“Surveys have shown that most males who hold elected office have it on their list of life goals,” Amedee said. “They often prepare for it years in advance and find it to be a fulfilling accomplishment in and of itself. But for most females in elected office, their focus is on improving something in society that they are passionate about and holding office is just the best tool for getting it done. That is true for me, also. There are a number of things I am driven to improve for the citizens of Louisiana. When I’m not up to my ears in the budget, I’m looking for ways to keep Louisiana family and business friendly.” •
By CASEY GISCLAIR