Ward to continue agenda after going unopposed

John Dupont
Louisiana Sen. Rick Ward discussed upcoming agenda items with the Post South last week.

District 17 state Sen. Rick Ward will not need to worry about working door-to-door in a campaign for the Oct. 12 primary election, but he said it does not mean he can take a breather.

Ward landed a third term in the state senate after he went unopposed during the qualifying period earlier this month, and that means only one thing for the Republican from Port Allen.

It's time to get back to work, he said.

"It feels great, and I feel like we've worked really hard, and sets us up to keep focused on working through the end of the year instead of having to focus on a campaign," Ward said. "I'm excited about the opportunity to serve another four years."

District 17 includes the following parishes: Iberville, West Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena and East Feliciana parishes, along with a portion of the Zachary area in East Baton Rouge and a part of West Feliciana Parish.

Ward's final term as senator, due to term limits, may also put him in a lofty spot for his district.

He is reportedly on the short list among those in line to become senate president upon the end of the tenure for longtime state Sen. John Alario, R-Westwego, who will complete his third and final term at the end of this year.

"It would be a later opportunity to serve our area, and a really good chance for me to do some things for our entire region and help better serve the state as a whole," Ward said. "My goal, even for entertaining it, has been to really make sure the senate keeps working in the way it has."

Part of the good working environment on the Senate's side of the State Capital comes from a more bipartisan approach than what has been seen in the House of Representatives in recent years.

"That doesn't mean anything other than that we've been the voice of reason in the building, and regardless of who the governor is, that body needs to stay that way," Ward said. "We need to continue to work together as a whole."

He believes the state benefits from a whole when lawmakers work "issue-specific" and based on relationships, rather than partisan politics.

The divide between Republicans and Democrats amounts to missed opportunities for the state, Ward said.

"I think what's really helped our region is that, for the most part, our delegation doesn't really view things in a partisan manner," he said. "We take a good look at the issues and work hard together to benefit the parishes we serve, and that's been very important in some of the success we've seen over the last few years."

Ward said the current fiscal condition for the state marks perhaps the biggest difference from the hardships it faced when he first took office.

The 2019 session – his eighth as a lawmaker – was the first time Ward entered with the knowledge that the state did not have a deficit.

"That's kind of hard to imagine, and that can be spun off in all sort of different ways, but the positive of it is that I don't know if we can say for a very long time that we have a surplus, but we certainly have a balanced budget," he said. "We didn't have a negative number."

It does not mean problems have gone away.

The $14 billion backlog on repairs to state roads remains a thorn in the side of Ward and other lawmakers, but the surplus dollars brought several projects to fruition.

The connection route between La. 415 to La. 1 in Port Allen represents perhaps the best example of the newfound fiscal flexibility.

He plans to continue focus on the traffic and infrastructure along the parishes, as well as washed-out bridges in rural areas that the state has not been able to replace due to budgetary constraints.

"None of the infrastructure initiatives we passed would've been a conversation had we been looking at a $300 million deficit," Ward said. "The environmental study and the other work for the project never would've materialized otherwise."