Chaisson ready for senate presidency
Destrehan native talks about Louisiana’s future
Now, after two terms in both the state House of Representatives and the Senate, Chaisson is on the verge of embarking on the biggest political challenge of his life - that of Senate President.
Chaisson recently sat down with Herald-Guide editor Jonathan Menard to discuss his recent endorsement by Gov. elect-Bobby Jindal and the steps both Louisiana and St. Charles Parish need to take in the future.
How did you first get interested in politics?
"I've always been interested in politics and I come from a political family. My father was in the legislature before me many years ago and I remember going to Baton Rouge and sitting in the governor's chair when I was a little boy. When I got the opportunity when I got out of law school, I took it and I decided to seek public office myself."
Were you surprised by Gov. elect Jindal's endorsement?
"I was pleased by the endorsement and I appreciated the fact that Gov. Jindal took the position he did, and that was to let the senate select their own leadership. That gave me the opportunity to meet with my colleagues, that were both Republicans and Democrats, to try to form a bipartisan coalition to organize the senate and try to get a leadership team in place that would promote the changes that the governor is proposing and support those initiatives.
“Because he took the position he did, I was able to put together, along with my colleagues, that team. We presented this to him and asked if he thought we were going in the right direction. Ultimately, he was convinced that it was the right direction and for that reason came out and endorsed what we were trying to accomplish. And that is putting partisan politics aside and trying to do what's best for the state."
Why do you think a majority of the senate would want you as their president?
"I think I'm very fair minded, open minded, and I'm willing to consider all sides of an issue. Basically, I'm a moderate Democrat, which is right in the middle of the political spectrum, and I can reach out to both those on the Democratic side and the Republican side and try to bring people together."
Do you agree with Jindal's upcoming plan for Louisiana?
"I do. The first thing that we've got to accomplish is being successful in the special session, that the governor plans to call in late January, in passing significant and meaningful ethics reform. We need to send a message to the rest of the nation that the old way of doing business in Louisiana is going to change and that we are serious about fighting this image of corruption that we have in this state."
Do you feel like Jindal is the best man for the job?
"Absolutely. I think that the people have certainly spoken in a loud voice by electing him in the first primary. That makes a statement about the direction that people want this state to go in. I think that his first primary victory represents a tremendous opportunity to make great strides in accomplishing some great things for the state."
What are some of the current issues that will impact Louisiana the most?
"We definitely have to make more progress in the rebuilding efforts in south Louisiana, particularly New Orleans. There is a lot that has yet to be accomplished that we need to accomplish. The well-being of the city of New Orleans is vital to the rest of the state and we need to get those issues resolved in a timely fashion to help bring the city back. The other huge issue is our levee protection system. Without that, we are vulnerable to another storm so we need to make significant strides in seeing that our levee systems are up to category 5 strength and doing everything we can to work with the federal government to make sure that that does indeed happen in a timely fashion."
How long do you think it will take to get the state's levee protection system built back up?
"It's all a function of money of course and it is well beyond the capacity of the state to deal with it on our own. So, there's going to be a lot of reliance upon the federal government to fix what has been broken, in which they bear a large share of the responsibility for. But the state also has to do its part and I know I'm committed and Gov. Jindal is committed to making sure that we have that type of working relationship that is going to be required to get it done in the quickest way possible."
What are some of the smaller issues that may not be on the forefront of many resident's minds right now, but will be especially important for the future?
"Transportation issues. We've got tremendous infrastructure problems in the state that we need to address. We need to repair our roads and bridges and completion of I-49 is a big, big issue from the standpoint of not only hurricane evacuation, but economic development."
What do you think of the recent changes on the parish council?
"Well, I'm committed to working with whoever is elected to the parish council and I think they are all fine individuals who will do an excellent job and I look forward to working with each and every one of them to improve this parish as well. The fact that I am going to be president of the Senate does not relieve me of my duties to my local constituency and I intend to make sure that their needs are addressed as well."
Do you think V.J. St. Pierre is the right man to move the parish forward?
"I think V.J. is an outstanding member of the community. I think he certainly has the potential to be an excellent parish president and I really look forward to working with him and helping him in any way I can in Baton Rouge."
Lastly, I have to get your opinion on the biggest issue in the parish, hurricane protection. Do you think the parish should move forward with the northern alignment?
"That really is a parish issue. I intend to support whatever the local government determines that they want to do in this matter. It's long overdue. I have been a strong proponent of getting that levee completed. I was the one who passed the legislation that required the Lafourche Basin Levee District to return 60 percent of the tax revenues generated in St. Charles Parish to St. Charles Parish so that work could be done on that levee. Significant work has been done, but not nearly enough. We need to come up with a resolution of what that alignment is going to be and get it built. We can’t wait for it to be part of the Donaldsonville to the gulf project. We don't even know if that's going to be the route, but that's too long in the future and I agree with what the parish has been doing in terms of trying to get the levee constructed in phases, but we need to get a resolution on that segment of the levee as well and I'm committed to working with the local officials to resolve it in as quick of a time frame as we can."
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