April 30, 2008

Hands-Free Device Cell Phone Bill

By Rep. Austin Badon

Distracted drivers throughout the country are causing motor vehicle accidents and deaths. Many of these drivers are distracted because of cell phone use. In 2006 and 2007, more than 17 fatalities and nearly 5000 accidents were due to drivers using hand-held cell phones. We have all seen the driver in the wrong lane and the driver going too slow or too fast because they are preoccupied with their cell phone conversations or text messages.

This is why I introduced House Bill 852 which prohibits the use of a cell phone or communication device while driving, unless it has hands-free capabilities. By requiring the use of hands free devices, drivers will be able to put both hands on the wheel and focus their attention on their surroundings and on driving.

Some will argue that there are other things besides cell phones that distract drivers. Yes, there are. However, we have the technology to address the cell phone issue and therefore we should. And this legislation does not prohibit you from talking on your cell phone while driving. It just requires that you use hands-free devices. A small price to pay to save a life.

April 25, 2008

International Officials Visit the Legislature

A delegation of governmental and business leaders from Colombia was welcomed to the state capitol and the House of Representatives on April 17 by Representative Steve Pugh from Ponchatoula, District 73. Their day in Baton Rouge capped a week-long economic development program organized by the Latin American Business Development Initiative at the College of Business, Southeastern Louisiana University. The program's agenda stated that "the Colombia Government Officials delegation to Louisiana is designed to facilitate and improve business, political and social development opportunities between Colombia and the State of Louisiana under the vision of the Free Trade Agreement. The program offers participants a comprehensive schedule that includes opportunities to meet and interact with Louisiana business leaders and government officials from different sectors." These 34 individuals from Colombia – representing business, state government, and local government – met with the mayor's office in New Orleans; the mayors of Hammond, Mandeville, Ponchatoula, and Baton Rouge; the state Department of Economic Development; and specialists in the fields of economic development, organizational management of municipalities, international cooperation, e-learning and technology, immigration law, and export/import policy. They also visited the Port of New Orleans, TEMPICO, Ferrara Fire Apparatus, and the Mall of Louisiana. Following a presentation on how the Legislature works, Representative Pugh gave the officials mementoes of their visit to Louisiana at a special luncheon in Baton Rouge. The delegation returned to the capitol to be presented to the House of Representatives. Gloria Lilian Uribe RĂ­os, Presidenta Concejo Municipal, thanked the House for Louisiana's hospitality.

Participating agencies in the program include the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University, the World Trade Center of New Orleans, the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, the Inter-American Development Bank, Microsoft, and several businesses and business leaders.

April 19, 2008

An Experiment in Calendar Management

By: Alfred W. Speer, Clerk

The Louisiana House of Representatives is conducting an experiment in calendar management – scheduling bills for debate on final passage. Speaker Jim Tucker wanted to give the 59 new members more preparation time and opportunity than had ever been allowed in the past. The Speaker remembered his first sessions: crushing work load, legislating by surprise, an inability to track and prepare for bills because no one knew or could predict when a particular bill would be debated on the House floor.

Welcome the House’s Debate calendar! The Speaker announces, and posts on the House’s web site, the bills to be debated on each session day for the following week. The weekly schedule is: regular calendar bills on Monday, consent and regular calendar bills on Tuesday, Special Order and regular calendar bills on Wednesday and consent, regular, and postponed bills on Thursday. Each session day has an allotted number of bills and ONLY those bills will be considered for debate. If a bill on the list is postponed, that bill can only be called on a Thursday of some succeeding week. Once the day’s debate calendar is clear, the House adjourns for the day.

The scheduling of specific bills on specific days will provide members, advocates, and the public sufficient advance notice of a bill’s debate to allow for proper preparation and to allow interested citizens fair warning of the day upon which they may wish to attend the House’s debate.

Through the initial two weeks of this experiment the membership’s reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, the House has managed its debate and workload without problem, and the daily workload has not been crushing. So far, this experiment is a success.