Martinez backs private sewer companies legislation

Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said Friday he will write his own letter of support, thank you very much, for proposed legislation giving the parish some regulatory say over private sewer companies in the parish.

The parish president said he has invited other council members to do the same, individually, though one from the entire body likely will not be coming.

The council will not have a quorum to hold the special meeting planned Monday to support Senate Bill 425 by Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette.

And, on Thursday night, Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee blocked adding the resolution to the council’s regular agenda, which requires a unanimous vote.

Martinez said he expects his letter and others from individual council members will help Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, push for the bill on the House floor, where it is awaiting a vote.

“We’ll get it done. It’s OK,” Martinez said.

Thursday night at the council was a tough one for nonbinding resolutions of support. Satterlee twice raised objections over a lack of advance information about what he was being asked to vote on.

Satterlee’s inquiries eventually sparked a tense exchange among Satterlee, Council Chairman Chris Loar and Tamiko Garrison, the backer of a new parish youth council in which Loar called Satterlee’s questions “idle chatter.”

Satterlee said he received the resolution supporting SB425 two minutes before the council meeting and had not been able to read the bill, though parish officials gave a brief explanation of the legislation.

“I openly embrace a discussion, but if we’re going to have vote on a resolution, I would be voting for something I just don’t understand and can’t get my arms around right now,” he said.

Martinez said Friday he understood Satterlee’s frustration but the parish was reacting to the legislative process.

“You don’t have time. This comes up. We don’t have a meeting again,” Martinez said.

SB425, which was originally aimed at water systems in Lafayette Parish, has been amended to allow Ascension to fine sewer providers for noncompliance. If three violations occur in one year, the bill says the private owners will have to forfeit their systems to the parish.

Later in the meeting Thursday, Satterlee questioned a resolution supporting a new Ascension Parish Youth Advisory Council, which would help build leadership skills among the parish’s high school juniors. Garrison gave the council a packet on the new group and delivered a presentation, but Satterlee noted that he had no resolution in his packet and felt one was needed.

“There’s no ‘whereas’? No ‘therefore be it resolved’? No legalese to this? We just support this, whatever it is?” Satterlee asked.

“It’s not just whatever it is. This is a pretty well-defined plan,” Loar shot back.

Satterlee continued to question Garrison about her plans and whether she would seek council funding — she said she would not — but Loar broke in as Satterlee concluded.

“Ms. Garrison, despite all the idle chatter, I just want to go ahead and say that this is a fantastic amount of effort that you’ve put into this. This will make a tremendous amount of difference for our youth in our community, our young leaders,” he said.

The resolution of support passed without opposition.

Satterlee said Friday the council had agreed not to bring in last-minute items to the agenda. But he said it is still happening and he will not be “hoodwinked.”

“I liken it to (former U.S. Speaker of the House and California U.S. Rep.) Nancy Pelosi, that we have to pass this bill to see what’s in it.”

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter at @NewsieDave.