Friday, March 03, 2006
SOUTHWEST DAILY NEWS
State Rep. Ronnie Johns told Sulphur Rotarians Wednesday that though he wouldn't call the last special session a complete disaster, it was a great disappointment.
Before legislators was an opportunity to streamline the New Orleans Clerk of Court, Sheriff's Department and Tax Assessors Office.
Johns said there are seven tax assessors. There are also two sheriffs - a civil and a criminal and four levels comprising the Clerk of Courts Office performing the same job that just one does in Calcasieu. Johns said there is a Recorder of Mortgages - the Clerk of Court does not handle mortgages.
“The government is the single largest employer in New Orleans,” he said.A bill that would have reorganized the Tax Assessor's Office was killed in a House committee and one that would have reorganized the Clerk of Courts Office and Sheriff's Department made it out of the House but was killed by the Senate.
“We're hoping the administration will come back with a package in the upcoming regular session to address these issues,” said Johns. The session kicks off March 27 and ends June 19.
Voting rights was another issue before legislators and Johns said it was “long-debated and emotional.”
“Nobody believes more in the constitutional right of citizens to vote, but we must protect the integrity of the process,” said Johns.
There were a number of bills proposed to allow displaced New Orleans citizens the ability to vote from their current residence.
“I felt these bills were ripe for fraud. I voted against all of the voting bills because in listening to testimony I discovered that someone in New York, Nebraska or California can vote absentee under our current laws,” he said.
Johns said the voting rights bill that passed will create 10 voting centers throughout the state - one in Lake Charles - that will allow early voting for the New Orleans April election.
“We did put a safeguard in the legislation stipulating that this be a one time only deal.
This has never been tried before and I still feel it's an opportunity for fraud which would be just another embarrassment for Louisiana,” said Johns.