Nearly 900 people gathered for the Legis-Gator lunch at L'Auberge-- an event sponsored by the Chamber Southwest Louisiana to recognize pro-business legislators.
Former Governor Buddy Roemer, who ran for president, was the keynote speaker. Roemer, who's been called a fearless reformer, says ours is a nation in trouble. "What dumb trade we have with China. Where is smart trade? Where's a president who will stand up for the working people of America, for the manufacturing people of America. And we let goods pour into this country made by children with no standards of labor and we act like, 'Oh, it's okay. It's okay for America to be unemployed. They can always go to a cheap place and find cheap goods."
Roemer also talked about the debt crisis. "We've gone from a five trillion dollar debt when George Bush took office to now it's sixteen trillion and that wasn't all Obama. That was both parties."
Roemer is passionate about the need for dramatic change in Washington D.C. He wants to see major campaign finance reform. "You know who the biggest givers to politicians in America were in the last four years? I'll name 'em. General Electric Corporation-- they write the tax code! And Goldman friggin Sachs. Congress is not broken. Washington is not broken. It's bought."
Roemer says he would outlaw Congress members lobbying Congress for five years after they retire. He says he wants a president who is free to lead.
Pro-business legislators were given awards at the lunch. Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley, from Calcasieu Parish, got the prestigious chair's award.
That suggests Kleckley has the support of business in his efforts to reform education despite opposition from teachers.
Copyright 2012 KPLC All rights reserved
Here is the news release from the Chamber SWLA:
Pro-Business Louisiana Legislators Lauded at Legis-Gator Luncheon
Lake Charles, LA – The 7th Annual Chamber SWLA Legis-Gator Luncheon once again bestowed this year's Legis-Gator of the Year award to a state legislator who took on a tough, thankless challenge for the benefit of Louisiana – Senator Elbert Guillory (D - Opelousas).
"Our 2012 Legis-Gator of the Year has taken on the most inglorious, unglamorous, and downright nightmare of an issue: Retirement Reform," said Marie Centanni, Chamber SWLA's Vice President of Governmental Affairs. "The Chamber SWLA endorsed Gov. Jindal's Retirement Reform package to manage the state's unfunded accrued liability, but only one of the key bills became law. We applaud Representative Kevin Pearson on that win, but the more controversial bills failed to clear the final hurdles of the legislative process. We feel it's imperative that the effort continue. Our state employees are our backbone, and deserve quality retirement benefits, but our state government must manage and fund that system in a way that works responsibly."
As a lawyer, Senator Guillory was unexpectedly called into court today and unable to attend today's luncheon.
This year's other major award winners were Rep. Bob Hensgens (R – Abbeville), who won the Governmental Affairs Award for being the Southwest Louisiana delegation member having the highest voting record with the Chamber SWLA's agenda (pictured –right- with Governmental Affairs Chair Courtney Fenet) ; House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R –Lake Charles), who won the Chair's Award for his leadership during an especially contentious session (pictured – left- with 2012 Chair Bill Monk); and Rep. Stuart Bishop (R –Lafayette) was Fusion Five's choice for the Up & Coming Legislator Award (pictured –right- with Fusion Five's Governmental Affairs Chair April Altazan).
This year's keynote address was given by former Gov. Buddy Roemer, with updates from Louisiana's Congressional Delegation including U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany (R –Lafayette), John Fleming (R – Shreveport), Bill Cassidy (R – Baton Rouge), Jeff Landry (R – New Iberia) and Cedric Richmond (D – New Orleans). More than 750 attendees helped the Chamber SWLA honor these legislators, recapping legislative efforts undertaken in 2012. This year's Business Champion honorees voted a majority of the time with the Chamber's legislative platform, supporting pro-business legislation, education reform, pension reform, and the reform of legacy lawsuits.
"While we know that while a few tweaks are yet to come, these changes are a critical foundation for the change our state needs. We recognize that there will be disagreements in the legislative process, and we respect all positions as we work towards common goals. We have much at stake in our corner of Louisiana," Centanni said.
This year's Business Champions receiving awards include*:
Sen. President John Alario (R – Westwego)
Sen. President Pro Temp Sharon Weston Broome (D - Baton Rouge)
Sen. Norby Chabert (R – Houma)
Sen. Ronnie Johns (R - Lake Charles)
Sen. Blade Morrish (R – Jennings)
Senator A.G. Crowe (R – Slidell)
Sen. Bret Allain, II (R – Franklin)
Sen. Mike Walsworth (R - West Monroe)
Sen. Gerald Long, (R - Winnfield)
Sen. John Smith (R - Leesville)
Sen. Jonathan Perry (R - Kaplan)
Rep. Johnny Berthelot (R – Gonzales)
Rep. Tim Burns (R - Mandeville)
Rep. Lance Harris (R - Alexandria)
Rep. Paul Hollis (R - Covington)
Rep. Tom Willmott (R - Kenner)
Rep. Simone Champagne (R - Erath)
Rep. Henry Burns (R - Haughton)
Rep. Bryan Adams (R - Gretna)
Rep. Jeff Arnold (D - New Orleans)
Rep. Taylor Barras (R - New Iberia)
Rep. Mike Huval (R - Breaux Bridge)
Rep. Nancy Landry (R - Lafayette)
Rep. Rob Shadoin (R - Ruston)
Rep. Mike Danahay (D - Sulphur)
Rep. Johnny Guinn (R - Jennings)
Rep. Hunter Greene (R - Baton Rouge)
Rep. Mickey Guillory (D - Eunice)
Rep. Dee Richard (I - Thibodaux)
Rep. Joe Harrison (R - Houma)
And the final three Business Champions have PERFECT voting records with the Chamber SWLA:
Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R – Sorrento)
Rep. Franklin Foil (R - Baton Rouge)
Rep. Steve Carter (R - Baton Rouge)
Other noteworthy guests included Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, mayors and other elected officials from communities across Southwest Louisiana.
This year's Title Sponsor is L'Auberge Casino Resort, and the Presenting Sponsor is CITGO Lake Charles. Golden Gator Sponsors are Acadian Ambulance and AT&T Louisiana. Bayou Backers sponsors are Cheniere, Cameron Parish/West Cameron Port, Cameron LNG, Capital One Bank, Chennault International Airport, First Federal Bank, Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District, Jeff Davis Bank & Trust, Phillips 66, The Picard Group, Iberia Bank, Stockwell, Sievert Law Firm, and Tobacco Free Living.
The Chamber SWLA is comprised of hundreds of businesses within the parishes of Southwest Louisiana who are working together to strengthen the economic structure of our regional community. The Chamber SWLA provides the resources and services necessary for its members to prosper. The Chamber SWLA provides businesses with greater opportunities to improve their skill sets through seminars and workshops, expand on business networking resources, and, through the support of pro-business legislation, to nurture the economic development of our region.
*Many legislators qualified for Business Champion Awards, but awards were given only to those in attendance.