Thirteen state senators and representatives are on course to spend about $40,000 to attend legislative conferences around the United States in the coming days, according to Louisiana Senate and House records.
The most popular of three conferences is the National Conference of State Legislators on Aug. 6-9 in Boston. Seven senators and four representatives have registered to attend, including Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.
State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, is signed up for the Southern Legislative Conference set Saturday through Wednesday in Charleston, W.Va. Dorsey is also attending the NCSL’s Boston meeting to which she received a fellowship award covering the $549 registration.
State Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, is the only legislator on the American Legislative Exchange Council, which opened its meeting July 25 in Salt Lake City.
Fewer legislators are choosing to go to the summer conferences than in recent years — particularly the ALEC meeting, which only last year attracted 31 legislators when it was held in New Orleans and former state Sen. Noble Ellington was its national chairman.
Dorsey said she goes to the conferences to “bring back knowledge from other legislators, information and laws they have been successful with in their states.”
“These are really horrific times in terms of states and what we are going through,” Dorsey said. “We are now trying to see how we deal with and minimize the (budget) cuts and the voter suppression, the state of health care and crime ... I’m trying to get all the knowledge I can.”
Barrow said she chooses to go to SLC because it “definitely resonates and is more applicable to us here locally on transportation and economic development issues.”
She said both are priorities for her.
“It’s more targeted to the Southern region, with better relationship-building and collaboration and wonderful ideas,” Barrow said.
Legislators who choose to attend conferences dip into their annual legislative expense allowance to cover travel and other expenses.
The average cost for the 11 legislators scheduled to go to Boston is $3,000 each. The amount includes travel expenses, hotel costs, conference registration fees and per diem — the $149 a day each get when they are in legislative session, attending interim committee meetings and on other official legislative business.
Senate records indicate conference-goers besides Alario and Dorsey will be state Sens. Troy Brown, D-Napoleonville; David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans; J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans; Barrow Peacock, R-Shreveport; and Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport.
According to House records, the NCSL registrants include state Reps. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans; Herbert Dixon, D-Alexandria; Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer; and Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette.
Costs related to Dorsey and Barrow’s participation in the SLC meeting in West Virginia are just more than $2,000 each. Crowe’s Salt Lake City conference costs total nearly $2,800.