[StBernard] Word from Washington: Travels Around South Louisiana Over April Recess

Westley Annis Westley at da-parish.com
Tue Apr 28 21:49:56 EDT 2009

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of traveling around this
great state of ours to meet and talk with constituents throughout south
Louisiana. These visits are my favorite part of the job as your
representative, and I only wish I could spend less time in Washington and
more in Louisiana.

During the two-week Congressional recess, I had the opportunity to visit
dozens of communities in the Third Congressional District and listen to
constituents' opinions and concerns, trying to help where I could. In just
two weeks, we drove over 2,200 miles throughout south Louisiana,
crisscrossing the district several times and stopping in Chalmette,
Gonzales, Larose, Morgan City, Houma, Thibodaux, New Iberia, St.
Martinville, Grand Isle, and many other towns.

While traveling around the Third District, I met face-to-face with hundreds
of constituents and heard directly from them about the issues most
concerning them. At the town hall meetings I held in Gonzales and New
Iberia, I heard people say they were worried about the economy, the job
market, the rising cost of health care and lack of affordable insurance, and
the slow progress of hurricane protection projects like Morganza to the

Rep. Melancon discusses oil and gas issues at the International Petroleum
Museum and Exposition in Morgan City.

During these meetings, I was able to share a few bits of good news from
Washington, such as the removal of the proposed oil and gas taxes from the
budget bill. As a member of the House Budget Committee, I was able to
successfully argue that it just didn't make sense to increase taxes on one
of the few American industries that has been strong over the past few years,
providing thousands of good-paying jobs for American workers. Congress
should be supporting the oil and gas industry, not working to cripple it
with new taxes, and I am pleased that the other committee members eventually
came around and removed the harmful tax increases from the budget bill.

On that note, I also had the opportunity to advocate for the expansion of
offshore oil and gas development in the Gulf at a public meeting held by
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in New Orleans. The meeting,
held on April 8th at Tulane, was an all-day session to gather information
and comments from the public to help the new Secretary build a comprehensive
energy strategy for the U.S. outer continental shelf. Secretary Salazar is
taking an active approach to developing a long-term energy policy for our
country, something that is long overdue. As the United States moves forward
on the path to energy independence, I will continue to support the
development of all sources of domestic energy - both traditional fuels like
oil and natural gas and emerging renewable energy sources like
American-grown biofuels.

The future of these biofuels, including sucrose ethanol, was a main topic of
discussion at "Farm Day 2009" meeting on April 15th. Farm Day, held this
year in Thibodaux, is an annual forum I organize to provide information for
farmers and ranchers in south Louisiana about current legislation and
policies in Washington affecting agriculture.

The focus of this year's Farm Day was the implementation of the new Farm
Bill, which became law in May 2008, including the new sucrose-ethanol
program. In an effort to maintain domestic sugar prices following the full
implementation of NAFTA and CAFTA, the Farm Bill requires the USDA to
purchase as much U.S.-produced sugar as necessary to maintain market prices
above support levels, then sell this excess sugar to bioenergy producers for
processing into ethanol.

Many sugar producers in south Louisiana are still unsure of how this new
program will affect their industry, so I invited Barbara Fesco from the USDA
to Farm Day to listen and answer questions from farmers. As in years past,
Farm Day 2009 brought together experts and policymakers with those in south
Louisiana who are most affected by agricultural policy, and I am pleased so
many farmers were able to participate this year.

Rep. Melancon discusses legislation in Congress with community leaders at
the African American Museum in St. Martinville.

During the Congressional recess, I was also able to visit a number of
businesses and community organizations in the Third Congressional District
and learn about their work. In St. Martinville, I toured the African
American Museum and heard about their project to facilitate internet
classroom exchanges between the French immersion schools in St. Martin
Parish and sister cities in Senegal.

In Morgan City, I toured the International Petroleum Museum and Exposition
and talked to industry leaders about how we can build support nationwide for
more offshore oil and gas drilling through better public education. While
south Louisianians know that offshore drilling is much cleaner, safer, and
environmentally responsible than it was in the past, many Americans around
the country still hold on to negative misconceptions about offshore
drilling. Clearing up some of those myths will be critical to building
nationwide support for expanding offshore energy production.

Rep. Melancon meets with artists at the Terrebonne Association for Retarded
Citizens. Paula Lapeyrouse, who Melancon selected to create an ornament for
the White House Christmas tree last year, is to the left of Melancon.

While I valued every opportunity to meet with constituents during the
recess, the highlight was a visit with the art class at the Terrebonne
Association for Retarded Citizens in Houma. TARC and the great work they do
are personally meaningful to me because, when I was a boy in Napoleonville,
my mother worked tirelessly to establish the Assumption Parish Association
for Retarded Citizens. Last December, I chose local folk artist and TARC
client Paula Lapeyrouse to create an ornament for the White House Christmas
tree. I got to meet Paula when she came to Washington, D.C., to visit the
White House and see her Cajun-inspired ornament, a red, white and blue ball
featuring crab, shrimp and crawfish. During my visit to TARC this month, I
enjoyed seeing Paula again and meeting the other artists at TARC. They
truly are special people.

Another productive district work period has now wrapped up. I appreciated
the opportunity to be home for several weeks and hear directly from
Louisianians about their concerns and opinions. Now that Congress is back
in session, I have returned to Washington reenergized and with new
dedication to finding solutions to the diverse challenges facing Louisiana
and fighting for the needs of our state. While I am in Washington,
however, I hope to continue hearing from the people of the Third
Congressional District, so please write, email or call my offices and share
your opinion.

As your representative in Congress, I am proud to be working on behalf of
the people of south Louisiana and see great things in our future. Bien


Charlie Melancon

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