Legislation Requires Notice and Public Hearing for Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee of the Louisiana House Of Representatives today approved HB 406 by Representative Tim Burns by substitute, which requires certain persons seeking a permit from the Office of Conservation of the Department of Natural Resources for an operation that involves hydraulic fracture stimulation in a parish in which hydraulic fracture stimulation has not occurred to follow certain notice and public hearing requirements.

Representative Burns filed the bill by substitute because of his concern that the current accelerated timetable for approving hydraulic fracture stimulation would not allow time for adequate public input and consideration.

“There has never been hydraulic fracture stimulation in St. Tammany and the citizens and public officials of St. Tammany need to be fully informed about the full impact on the parish of hydraulic fracture stimulation. I had requested that the applicant voluntarily delay the application, but I received no response to my request. Adequate notice and public input is an important part of the democratic process and activities with such a profound effect on a community require such notice and input,” said Representative Burns.

Representative Paul Hollis said, “House Bill 406 by my colleague and neighbor Representative Tim Burns is common sense legislation that enhances transparency and encourages citizen engagement. By requiring a 30-day public notice from companies looking to expand operations in parishes where hydraulic drilling is non-existent, the citizenry will have adequate time to meet with their elected officials and voice their support or concern.”

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Taking the Politics Out of Political Sex Scandals

Just when we thought that we had heard it all with political sex scandals; including the shirtless “Craigslist Congressman” and Wienergate, parts 1 and 2, we have a brand new Made for You Tube scandal featuring Louisiana’s own “Kissing Congressman,” U.S. Rep Vance McAllister. This new saga combines the best of sensational journalism with reality TV, as the Duck Dynasty supported Congressman admitted that his amorous conduct with an office aide “fell short,” as did his awareness of office surveillance cameras. Now McAllister seeks redemption not only from his family and the Lord, but also from the famed Duck Commander, who already has a proven track record for political miracles in Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District.

As this sad episode plays out, political figures are urging the Congressman to do the “right” thing, which is, of course, to resign immediately and focus the necessary attention on family reparations, while hopefully un-focusing attention on the pesky scandal, so that it does not interfere with party’s prospects in the looming fall elections.
And there seems to be no immediate end in sight to the saga, with the media featuring a scorecard of previous political scandals, while it compares and speculates on the fate of the latest errant politician in this newest episode of Survivor: Sex Scandal.

But there are nonpolitical considerations to be examined as well, one of them being the trauma being inflicted on Congressman McAllister’s family. Kelly Duncan McAllister seems to be a really nice lady, who enjoys raising their five children. Like most political spouses, including mine, she never asked for the limelight of the political stage, but agreed to go along with the campaign for the benefit of her spouse. Now she has likely become the scandal’s most grievously injured victim, with emotional scars being branded on her and her children, her life being cruelly assigned a permanent asterisk as the scorned wife of the Kissing Congressman. I have been involved in some brutal campaign slug-fests in my career and know they were traumatic to my family. But they were a peck on the cheek compared to what the McAllister family is having to endure.

Another nonpolitical consideration is the sheer hypocrisy of the situation, the public outcry and condemnation of another for their “sin.” Sure politicians should be held to a higher standard as public office holders, but they are hardly alone when it comes to committing adultery. Infidelity permeates every walk of life, including the media, and there is concern that straying is becoming more commonplace. Today, there are even commercial websites devoted exclusively to promoting adultery. The best known infidelity hookup site is Ashley Madison, whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” In fact, the site even offers a money back guarantee if a customer is unsuccessful in breaking the Seventh Commandment. Ashley Madison must not have to issue too many refunds since it made headlines recently by attempting to buy a pricy Superbowl ad.

When an infidelity promoting website is successful enough to afford the most expensive thirty seconds in advertising, society has a much bigger moral problem than a Kissing Congressman.

While McAllister’s conduct is certainly deplorable, let’s not be overly judgmental, but instead realize “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” The sad but true fact is that today’s society is saturated with temptation and indiscretion, and unfortunately infidelity can happen to anyone who is not vigilant.

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Lacombe Bayou Field Drilling

Helis Oil & Gas Company, LLC has recently applied with the Office of Conservation of the State of Louisiana to establish rules and regulations and to create a single drilling and production unit for the exploration for and production of oil and gas from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, Reservoir A in the Lacombe Bayou Field, close to the Intersection of Highway 1088 and I -12 (see copy attached). I have also attached other information on this project and am posting information at www.timburns.com.  An initial hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at the Office of Conservation in Baton Rouge to create their single drilling and production unit, which would be the first step for an actual drilling permit.

Although we have requested that the company hearing be continued until the citizens and public officials can gather more information, we have not received a definite response so the timing of this matter is very pressing.

I want St. Tammany residents to be as informed as possible about all of the ramifications of this project, including risks and rewards of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (also known as Fracking). Also, the approximate 13,000 foot depth of the drilling will be through a major aquifer which provides water to most of the parish residents.

I have been in touch with both the Office of Conservation and the Louisiana Independent Oil and Gas Association, which represents the drillers and both have offered to give public presentations. I have also requested an extension from the company and will let you know when I receive a reply. This issue is developing rapidly and I will be sharing information as I will receive it.

This is obviously a very vital issue for our community and I want to hear from residents.

If you would like to be on the mailing list please click. Note that information regarding this is posted on my website, Tim Burns.com, my Facebook page, my twitter page and the balcony blog on which comments can be posted. Please don’t hesitate to call my office at 985-624-4492 with any comments or requests for information.

Tim Burns, State Representative

Lacome Bayou Field Drilling Map

Tuscaloosa Marine Shale

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Constituent Survey Responses

I recently sent out a survey to constituents with questions regarding some of the major issues to be discussed this 2014 Legislative Session. Thank you for the large number of responses, which included those completed online. Below is a general overview of the survey results.

I value all opinions. If you have not taken the survey, you can answer the questions in the polls below. If you have comments regarding a specific question or questions, please comment on this post.

Thank you,

Tim Burns, State Representative

Survey Table

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Recent Poll Results: Citizens Have Little Faith in Government/Pessimistic About New Year

As I reflected about what I wanted to accomplish in legislature in the upcoming year, my 10th in public office, I came across a very negative poll by the AP on the federal government. Unfavorable attitudes toward federal government spill over the state and local government. According to the poll, half of those surveyed said the nation’s system of democracy needs either a lot of changes or a complete overhaul. In addition, a whopping 70% lacked confidence in the government’s ability to make progress on important issues.

Should this really come as any surprise in the wake of federal government shutdowns, endless partisan bickering, and running the country on a patchwork of legislative gimmicks such as sequester, et. al. as opposed to decisive leadership?

This lack of leadership clearly has citizens worried, including me. How many of the following conditions would you agree currently plague the United States:

• Splintered ineffective central government that is unable to govern.
• Crumbling moral standards sabotaging the character and creating a general malaise of its citizens.
• Excessive taxation to pay for foreign wars, hoarding of resources by the top 1%, fiscal problems.
• Deterioration of the military, infrastructure and technological advantages.

One of them … two of them … all of them. Do they sound a bit familiar? Maybe for you history buffs, it’s because these were the conditions that historians attribute to the fall of the Roman empire in 470 AD.

Rome had split into the eastern and western empire, each run by a different emperor. The eastern empire (the Byzantine empire) had its capital at Constantinople (Istanbul), while the western empire was centered in Italy.

The federal government is also divided, but instead of geographically, it is split between the two major political parties, which are effectively at war with each other. The parties are so intent on destroying the other that government is virtually paralyzed and unable to address immediate issues and problems, much less provide an effective long term strategy and vision for America. This political chasm is dividing the country culturally as well, causing its citizens to be less concerned about their country.

Another cause of the Roman empire’s demise was its lack of morality; rampant indulgences and personal excesses of an undisciplined population that could no longer balance work and play. Today’s digital distractions are helping to fuel epic immorality and unhealthy preoccupations. By the time many young men reach the age of 21, they will have immersed themselves in 10,000 hours of video games, the time it takes to earn two bachelor degrees. In addition, the potency of Internet pornography which has the potential to rewire brains into a perpetual state of arousal, is virtually unregulated. Over 50% of young people are exposed to internet pornography, with one quarter of those becoming addicted.

The Roman empire was also hobbled by the high taxes, primarily to pay for foreign wars. While the tax rate was low, the Roman empire flourished economically, but started to decline as tax rates rose. In addition, the economic decline was exacerbated by the hoarding of resources by the upper class.

The United States is also stretched by foreign wars and is imposing confiscatory taxes on its citizens. With the most recent tax hike at the end of last year and the hidden taxes in The Affordable Care Act, the United States is approaching the highest tax rates in its history. While the middle class has continued to disappear, the amount of wealth controlled by the top 1% continues to increase, with the very rich hoarding the bulk of the economic resources.

The final cause of the decline of Rome was the deterioration of its military, infrastructure and innovation. It allowed its highways to crumble and lost its creative edge in the world. Its military was neglected as well as scattered on several foreign fronts defending its empire, setting themselves up to be defeated by the barbarians in 476.

The United States also has a military that is overextended and neglected. The country has lost its educational edge and is in the middle of the pack of industrialized nations. Our infrastructure is also crumbling and outdated.

I certainly don’t think the US is going to be conquered any time soon, bit I am concerned about the long term prospects of the US given that its citizens are so negative on the federal government. I had hoped to start the New Year on a better note.

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Can the Legislature be Trusted with the Budget?

In his book, Inside the Carnival: Unmasking Louisiana Politics, LSU political science professor Wayne Parent opines that a strong executive branch is needed in Louisiana because the legislature (reflecting the state’s population) is simply too diverse when left to their own devices. After all, how can all those diverse demographics, traditions, cultural influences, backgrounds and political beliefs ever be able to agree on something as important as the state budget.

In this session, the legislature proved otherwise, bringing together diverse elements of the legislature to achieve a budget compromise on their own. The budget compromise was certainly respectable in that it didn’t entirely satisfy anyone, but contained a little something for everyone, including fiscal responsibility and budget cuts as well as a little extra for K-12 and higher education.

In addition, the overall budget has continued to shrink from $28.6 billion in 2008 to $25.4 billion in 2013. In addition, the budget in 2008 also had $1.2 billion in one-time money compared with none in 2013. Both of these facts are something to be very proud about.

Much of the credit should go to the Fiscal Hawks, who worked very hard over the past 6 years and were undeterred in their pursuit of a fiscally responsible agenda. Some of their achievements include lowering the expenditure level from $15.6 billion to $12.9 billion, requiring the revenue estimating conference to recognize all sources of funds to limit appropriation of contingencies and nonrecurring revenue and requiring general appropriation bills to have separate recommendations for discretionary and non-discretionary spending.

The Hawks were also helped with some out-of-the-box thinking from Rep. Joel Robideaux with respect to increasing the conference committee for HB 1, so that the diverse elements had a seat the table and, earlier, for crafting a revenue package that Republicans could support. These contributions and others, including spiking the income tax phaseout, led to Rep. Robideaux winning the Doc Hudson award (which is a really special thing that the House does in honor of a very special former member.)

But all the members of the legislature deserve credit for defying conventional expectations, including the budget conference leadership of both chambers, Senators John Alario, Jack Donahue and Eddie Murray and Representatives Chuck Kleckly, Jim Fannin, Lance Harris, Katrina Jackson, John Bel Edwards and Cameron Henry. As said earlier, everyone put in a lot of time and had to give a bit to reach a compromise.

Hopefully, this cooperation can continue onward as the state continues to face issues and challenges. Despite reductions in state spending, there is still widespread concern as to whether Louisiana is receiving the adequate bang for the buck on its expenditures. I would think that a  future goal would be to try to evaluate expenditures, including tax expenditures, to see if Louisiana is receiving the appropriate ROI or return on its investment. Businesses can quickly determine whether or not they are receiving sufficient ROI and quickly change their strategy. Why can’t Louisiana be focused on outcomes for both its direct expenditures as well as its tax expenditures.

Tim Burns, State Representative

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Another Budget Standoff

Yet another legislative session is ending with a House and Senate budget standoff over fiscal practices and state spending.

The heart of the issue is the use of nonrecurring revenues for recurring expenditures, which would certainly violate Sarbanes-Oxley if the state were a publicly traded private enterprise, but doesn’t apparently violate the Louisiana Constitution. Most of us are not necessarily against squeezing out revenues during a difficult year or two, but continual use of nonrecurring and contingent revenues is certainly not a sound budget practice.

That’s why hopefully the Senate will agree to the House version HB 437, which settles the yearly recurring vs. nonrecurring revenue spat by providing that the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) report shall include a forecast of all funds as defined in Art. VII, Sec. 10 (J) of the Const. of La., with an estimate of money available for appropriation from each dedicated fund. In addition, the proposed law also provides that the REC may designate as nonrecurring, money available for appropriation from any source that is defined in law as nonrecurring.

By placing this important function in the hands of the constitutionally created REC, which requires the input of an economist, we have the best shot at responsible budget practices for years to come.

That and reducing the expenditure of one time money to under next year’s surplus (the cap) could avoid a special session.

Lets see what happens.

Tim Burns
State Representative

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