Roads, flood control highlight 2022 agenda for State Rep. Chad Brown

Staff Report

Issues ranging from transportation and flood control to juvenile justice and homeowner’s insurance highlight District 60 state Rep. Chad Brown’s 2022 legislative agenda, but another challenge looms prior to the regular session.

Brown and other lawmakers will tackle redistricting during a special session that will last two or three weeks in February, just before the regular session convenes March 14.

Projects to improve flood control in the areas near Bayou Sorrell and Bayou Pigeon are on a long list of 2022 priorities for state Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine.

The redistricting process – required every 10 years after completion of the U.S. Census – could bring changes, particularly on the Congressional seats.

Most of the discussion will hinge upon how the state should address a loss of nearly 80,000 residents in north Louisiana, while areas along Interstates 10 and 12 gained in population during the last decade.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of movement in every district,” said Brown, D-Plaquemine, whose district covers Iberville and Assumption parishes. “Some discussion will involve whether there needs to be another “majority minority” district in Congress based on state population demographics.

It’s too early to tell exactly how it would affect District 60 and particularly Iberville Parish, where a split between representation by Republican Congressman Garret Graves and Democratic counterpart Troy Carter divides in Plaquemine.

“It’s going to be a very interesting conversation,”

 he said.

Once the session begins, much of Brown’s focus will center on infrastructure.

A state surplus and the influx of federal funds through pandemic recovery bills could pave the way for those projects, but other lawmakers will also have their eyes on the same objective.

“Our biggest priority is transportation, and we need to take advantage of the opportunity we have in terms of the money want to see going to transportation, water systems and other infrastructure,” he said. “We need to take advantage of the opportunities we have.

“The additional funding that we have has us set up for the next souple of years to make very pragmatic and wide decisions that will determine how we go long term,” Brown said. “If we act wisely, we can do some things transformative for the region – but getting enough legislators to agree on these priorities is always the problem.”

He also wants more headway on the new Mississippi River Bridge project.

Brown shares the same dismay Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso and West Baton Rouge Parish President Riley “Pee Wee” Berthelot expressed about the lack of progress on site location.

During the December meeting of the Capital Area Road and Bridge District, three sites the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) previously eliminated went back on the list of where a new bridge may be built south of the Intracoastal Waterway in Port Allen and north of the Sunshine Bridge near Donaldsonville.

Brown said he recently had a “very specific and targeted conversation” with DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson regarding the slow movement on plans.

“Adding three more prospective sites doesn’t instill a lot of confidence to my constituents when they see something like that,” Brown said. “Federal guidelines and environmental evaluations have to be done before a site selection is made, but they have to be more forthcoming on the fact that we there’s a certain number of sites to which we want to get it narrowed down to and where it will leave – and that would instill a lot of confidence.

Flood mitigation will also play a role in the infrastructure discussion.

Brown and Ourso met with Gov. John Bel Edwards last summer to discuss flooding issues regarding roadways across the parish. Brown said he received commitments that work will be followed through on La. 75 along Bayou Sorrell and areas of Assumption parishes, which have been prone to food events over the last few years. 

“I’m pleased with discussions we’ve had,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have to have damaged or lost property, financial distress to a number of people to get movement needed on these projects to finally get movement so action taken so get some longstanding problems eliminated.”

On a related issue, Brown – who serves on the House Insurance Committee – wants to promote legislation that will require insurance to act more expeditiously on payments to policyholders whose homes sustain damages through hurricanes and floods.

Complaints have increased among policyholders throughout much of south Louisiana whose homes were damaged or destroyed.

“When I started with insurance commission in 1993, one year after Hurricane Andrew, not many companies were writing policies in Louisiana, and we had to had to walk fine line and make sure Louisiana was still attractive for them to do business,” he said. “And over the years, able to get companies to come ink and at that point again where we have to make sure Louisiana is still a hospitable place for companies to come in and do business.”

Brown said he will also take an active role on juvenile justice reform, particularly on the housing of underage offenders after their arrest and/or conviction.

“We don’t have the housing and space to hold juvenile offenders, and that’s a problem we definitely need to address,” he said. “Going forward, it’s going to lead to discussion on how you treat juvenile offenders, especially when it comes to violent crime.

“I will say that Tony Clayton and our sheriffs are at the forefront on discussion of this issue, and I will lean on them for their guidance on how we could possibility address this,” Brown said. “Tony and our sheriffs have been discussing this for a while, and I will lean on them for guidance on how to address this.”