Official trips to cost La. $70,000

MARSHA SHULER

Louisiana lawmakers are spending nearly $70,000 in taxpayer funds attending three conferences this summer, according to state House and Senate records.

About two-thirds of the money will be spent in-state as 31 legislators attend the American Legislative Exchange Council’s meeting Aug. 3-6 in New Orleans.

The rest of the money is associated with legislators attending the Southern Legislative Conference July 16-20 in Memphis and the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting Aug. 8-11 in San Antonio.

The spending covers travel, hotel, conference registrations and the $152 a day legislators get while on business related to their office.

State Rep. Noble Ellington, R-Winnsboro, is national chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council. State Rep. Greg Cromer, R-Slidell, is the ALEC Louisiana chairman.

ALEC is a 2,000-member organization that according to its website “advances Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty.” Its membership includes legislators as well as business interests.

Some 1,600 people from around the U.S. are expected to attend, Ellington said.

“It’s going to show the people — legislators from all 50 states — that New Orleans is back (from Hurricane Katrina),” Ellington said. “It’s an opportunity to show off the World War II Museum and other things.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal is scheduled to deliver ALEC’s opening address, Ellington said.

Registered to attend the ALEC conference in New Orleans are Ellington, Cromer, House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown and state Reps. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans; Elton Aubert, D-Vacherie; Damon Baldone, D-Houma; Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro; Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles; Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings; Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville; Cameron Henry, R-New Orleans; Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville; Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe; Nita Hutter, R-Chalmette; Girard Jackson, D-Harvey; John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie; Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte; Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans; Anthony Ligi, R-Metairie; Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie; Rick Nowlin, R-Natchitoches; Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge; Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport; Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs; and Thomas Willmott, R-Kenner.

Senators registered for ALEC include A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell; Ed Murray, D-New Orleans; Neil Riser, R-Columbia; Gerald Long, R-Winnfield; Francis Thompson, D-Delhi; and Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.

Members who live within a 50-mile radius of New Orleans cannot be reimbursed for a hotel room.

Attending the Southern Legislative Conference meeting in Memphis earlier this month were state Sens. Robert Adley, R-Bossier City; Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge; and Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City; as well as state Reps. Fannin, D-Jonesboro; and Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge.

Barrow and Fannin drove to the conference.

Scheduled to go to the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in San Antonio in August are state Sen. Buddy Shaw, R-Shreveport; as well as state Reps. Baldone, Kay Katz, R-Monroe; and state Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport.