Rep. Richardson and Hodges on the Issues: Hooper Road Bridge, School Vouchers, & State Retirements

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 Rep Richardson and Hodges at the CCA Forum.  Photo by Dave Freneaux
By Dave Freneaux
    State Representatives Clif Richardson and Valarie Hodges were the guest speakers at CCA's Legislative Update Tuesday evening.  Central's Representatives gave updates on current issues in the House of Representatives this session.
    Representative Richardson shared that while not many bills have been filed, there is controversy brewing.  In education, there is discussion of a possible voucher system allowing students from poor performing schools to transfer to other schools, possibly public or private, and potentially even across District lines.
    The state workers' retirement system is also under scrutiny, with an attempt being made to move the retirement age to 67 years old in order to receive full benefits.  There is also talk of a 3% increase in the contribution toward retirement, but a portion of these funds are destined for the General Fund and not the retirement system.  The retirement system is seen as being unstable and potentially could be bankrupt in 15 years according to some.
    On the issue of roads, Rep. Richardson explained that this area has a number of legislators on transportation committees who are working hard to solve Central area problems.  The projects of highest profile in Central include the four-laning of Sullivan to Hooper, Hooper to Joor then on to Blackwater.  Hooper Road bridge over the Amite River remains a very high profile issue with funding already begun for studies.
    Newly-elected Representative Hodges shared that she is impressed with the Economic Development in Central in a time of economic recession.  She stressed the need for improving infrastructure to support that growth, with the Hooper Road bridge being the most important project.  Hodges informed the audience that last week $43 million was taken from the transportation fund to add to the general fund budget, and that this needs to stop.  Rep. Hodges will also be working this session on legislation to provide early education to children to help protect them from the risks of internet predators.