Two Thibodaux-area candidates will be on the ballot next month for the state Representative District 55 seat: former Justice of the Peace Bryan Fontenot and businessman Donovan Fremin.
Fontenot has resigned his post as justice of the peace to run for the state office.
The seat is represented by Jerome "Dee" Richard, a Thibodaux independent who has served the maximum three consecutive four-year terms allowed by state law.
District 55 includes Thibodaux, Chackbay, Lafourche Crossing and parts of the Raceland area.
The election will be held Oct. 12, with early voting Sept. 28 to Oct. 5.
Here are the candidates’ answers to The Courier and Daily Comet’s campaign questionnaire. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
What would be your top three legislative priorities?
Fontenot: The top priority must be to create local jobs. As our neighboring states and even our neighboring parishes are creating jobs, Lafourche continues to lose these jobs. Jobs bring people, who buy homes and goods, who invest in our local economy.
Fremin: Restructure our state budget to allow more flexibility for state lawmakers to use tax money on areas like infrastructure, education and coastal restoration and levee protection. Fund infrastructure repair for the area along with new highway projects like a connection from La. 3127 in Vacherie to U.S. 90 in Gray and extending La. 3135 from Larose to U.S. 90 in Raceland. Create a coastal caucus to bring the issues of coastal restoration and levee protection to the forefront and to secure long-term funding.
Why would you be the best representative for your district?
Fontenot: My service to this state and parish stretches nearly my entire life. My awards include Police Officer of the Year, Firefighter of the Year and one of Lafourche Parish's Top 40 Under 40 community leaders in 2014. My professional experience of creating and managing my own companies prepares me to help examine major issues, including tax reforms that will incentivize business and promote growth.
Fremin: My more than 20 years of experience in government relations makes me the most qualified candidate. My approach of working with my fellow legislators, not against them, will get the best results for our region.
What are your views on tax reform? What would you like to see changed, if anything?
Fontenot: Complete and major tax reform is certainly needed to promote economic growth. On the state level, we must examine and change the methodology on how we administer and implement tax incentives, such as the Industrial Tax Exemption Program and payment in lieu of taxes. On the parish level, we must help support reform in the multitude of individual taxing boards that Lafourche Parish has and find an alternative way to reduce the total amount of property taxes levied in each district.
Fremin: Tax reform is needed to create a more competitive business climate for the state. We also need to have a serious discussion on centralizing and streamlining our tax collection system. Reducing our corporate tax rate along with phasing out our franchise tax will allow Louisiana to be more competitive with neighboring states.
BP settlement money has supported much of the state's efforts for coastal restoration and protection. When that money runs out, how should the state pay for and address coastal issues, particularly those in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes?
Fontenot: U.S. House Bill 3814 would amend the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 that increased the amount of revenue sharing and brings more funding into the state from offshore oil and gas production. We must work closely with our federal delegation to continue to move bills, like this one through, Congress that give Louisiana its rightful share of revenue.
Fremin: The cost of coastal restoration and protection is so high, the state must get help from our federal government. The entire leadership of Louisiana must lobby to increase the percentage of GOMESA funding to the state. Creating a coastal caucus will also help with securing long-term funding.
How should the state address growing and costly infrastructure needs?
Fontenot: We have to examine the budget process and statutory mandates inside the budget. Once that is complete and we find funding sources that can be changed to discretionary funds, those funds should be sent to infrastructure and capital outlay.
Fremin: I would like to begin by calling for legislative oversight over the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to make sure more tax dollars go toward construction costs, not administrative costs. Restructuring our state budget to allow legislators to have more access to state funding will also help in increasing funding for infrastructure. Creating partnerships with industries throughout the state to help fund new infrastructure should be looked into as well.
This Legislature will have a chance to influence how legislative and congressional district boundaries are redrawn after the 2020 census. Would you propose or support any major changes to the current district lines?
Fontenot: Certainly, northern and central Lafourche would benefit from having a state senator that represents the majority of our population. I support the efforts to create a senator position. The next census report is due soon; this will help guide us both on the state and federal level on how these districts will be created.
Fremin: Yes, I strongly believe that Lafourche Parish deserves a state Senate district that has a majority of voters from Lafourche.
What is your position on proposed legislation to give fishermen the right to traverse private waterways in coastal marshes?
Fontenot: I am a avid sportsman and gun owner. I would certainly support legislation that does not limit access to lands and waterways that are navigable. Louisiana is sportsman's paradise and we need to bring back organizations like Bass Masters to host their tournaments in our state without fear of criminal prosecution because of poorly designed land laws.
Fremin: I support working with our landowners and sportsmen to negotiate a compromise that will allow limited access for our sportsman and, in return, relieve landowners of any liability from allowing such access.