The much-discussed HB 765 which spent basically one-time funds and some federal funds refunded to Louisiana was discussed in front of the House Friday. In this bill, $150 million had been set aside for highway construction.
On the floor, Shreveport state Rep. Roy Burrell (with Shreveport Rep. Ernest Baylor) offered an amendment to direct $60 million of that to the construction of I-49 and an environmental impact study of the route of it going through Shreveport. He must have meant it to be for the proposed I-49 north route covering mostly existing U.S. 71 and may have thought the study funding request made that obvious. Without objection it was done.
But not long afterward, Bossier state Rep. Billy Montgomery (also endorsed by others including area Reps. Wayne Waddell, Jim Morris, and Jane Smith) offered another amendment that said of the $150 million, $100 million could be spent only on interstate projects on the Highway Priority Program list – which apparently didn’t include I-49. This also was adopted without objection.
Of course, there’s a conflict here. Backing out $100 million from $150 million left only $50 million for the $60 million proposal for “I-49” and the study. And apparently House rules would give precedence to the temporally later amendment when such a conflict exists. In other words, the Montgomery amendment vetoed in essence the Burrell amendment.
Then today, that got corrected in amendments 16-20 made in the Senate Finance Committee of whom its members include area state Sens. Sherri Smith Cheek and Lydia Jackson. The $100 million amount was reduced to $90 million, clearing up the conflict and it was made more specific in regards to allocating the money to I-49 north work.
This leads to some interesting questions:
The crisis for I-49 north funding has passed but the questions remain. In their published comments, both Montgomery and Smith seemed unaware that the amendment had canceled the money going to “I-49,” so it seems inattentiveness on their part was to blame. (Montgomery also ripped another area legislator, Rep. Mike Powell, for not voting for the bill and, in essence, the $60 million mistake he had created.) Montgomery has been there 20 years and Smith 8 and don’t seem to have it down yet. No doubt their opponents thins fall will remind area voters of that.