Sen. Ryan Gatti, District 36, is receiving a firestorm of backlash after Senate Bill 415, which would form a Lake Bistineau Commission, was pushed through the Senate with a vote of 35 to 1.
When news of the bill passing began to spread, Bistineau residents took to Facebook to express their outrage over the fact that it was pushed through without holding all three town hall meetings first.
“I do feel he lied,” Susan Addington, a Bistineau resident, said. “He told us at the town hall Saturday that he would not do anything until he met with Bossier and Bienville residents on the town halls this weekend. This morning (Thursday), he told the Senate that he had our support.”
Before the Senate floor Thursday morning, Gatti said he’d “had some town hall meetings with some folks around Bistineau,” and asked they pass the bill “based on public input” with the amendments made. The major amendments made to the bill include commissioners to be elected by the people instead of appointed, the taxing authority was removed and the police juries agreed to take up much of the responsibilities of permitting and things that were originally in the bill, he said.
J.C. Calhoun, another Bistineau resident, reiterated Addington’s statement, saying Gatti told the people he was going to wait to put it before the Senate until after the town hall meetings.
“They asked him (Saturday) to trash the bill, and that’s not what he did,” he said. “And he said he was going to wait until it was exactly what the people wanted, and he was going to have the town hall meetings before he moved it. That’s not what he did.”
A meeting was set to be held in each parish – Bossier, Webster and Bienville – for Gatti to answer questions and concerns from the community regarding the bill that originally gave the proposed commission taxing authority, the ability to impose parcel and vessel fees as well as provisions regarding the sale of water. The first was held in Doyline, Saturday, April 23.
When asked why he pushed it through Thursday, he responded, “The amendments were ready. We can continue to amend through the process.”
He declined comment in response to the backlash he received following the vote on the Senate floor.
Calhoun says he feels Gatti’s intentions are good, and he doesn’t even mind a commission, but he says the people should have gotten to see a copy of the amendments before he put it before the full Senate.
“That just seems logical to me,” he said. “But judging by what the people are saying, this is not what they want. I’m not opposed to a commission, but it’s still the idea of another level of government bureaucracy that we’re going to have to weed through, and loopholes that we’re going to have to jump through for anything to do with hunting, fishing, boating, and I don’t feel it’s necessary.”
Calhoun says he’d like to see a representative from LDWF at the next two town hall meetings to answer questions and clarify things.
He praised Gatti, saying he’s done an excellent job at staying in touch with the people.
The second and third town hall meeting is set for Friday, April 29, in Ringgold and Saturday, April 30, in Koran.