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Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015

Vetting the Candidates

Two hopefuls already vying for Senate seat

Although qualifying for this fall’s elections isn’t until Sept. 8-10, this year’s ballots are so loaded with candidates and issues that it might be a good idea to start getting acquainted with candidates who’ve already announced. Those would be the ones whose campaign signs are already appearing on roadsides and in yards – which would include Senate District 36 hopefuls Henry Burns and Ryan Gatti.

Candidates for Senate District 36 are vying to replace long-standing Sen. Robert Adley who can’t seek another term as a result of term-limits.

Bossier voters would likely agree that Burns doesn’t need much of an introduction; he served 15 years as a Bossier Parish School Board member and the last eight years as Representative for House District 9. Perhaps as noteworthy from this view, he’s the former owner of The Wooden Spoon.

Gatti, a Bossier City attorney, may have less of a public reputation, but in his profession and church, he’s earned the respect of his peers and clients. He’s served as vice president of the Bossier Republican Party, president of the Bossier Bar Association, recipient of the esteemed 2013 Crystal Gavel Award (an acknowledgement of the esteem in which he’s held in the legal community) and serves in leadership positions at First Bossier Church.

In a recent visit with Burns, he was quick to point out that term limits don’t have anything to do with his seeking the vacant Senate seat; he’s still eligible to serve another four-year term in the House. He also discounted the issue of his initial support for tougher school standards, saying he is not a Common Core advocate. And, to those who might suggest he could have been more legislatively productive, Burns ticked off a series of successful bills – and relationship/alliance building that helped secure funding for Bossier Parish’s new sewer district.

Noting that his best known successful legislation was the Church Security bill. The “Military and Veterans Friendly Campus” bill also was passed in this last session. This legislation will help veterans better navigate state higher education programs and receive college credit for military experience.

He also pointed to his chairmanship of the Interstate 49 funding and feasibility study, which targeted funding to the northern segment of the corridor instead of committing the funding to the roadway’s southern leg.

In the long run, Burns said, election to the Senate seat would allow him to work as hard for Senate District 36 as he has for his House district.

In a similar visit, Gatti ticked off a number of areas in which moving the interests of constituents might be achieved legislatively, starting with the problems he’s seen through his law practice.

Gatti was quick to note a couple of examples of issues that should have been solved at the governmental or state level, but instead were left to the judicial branch or public coalitions to determine or move forward. One of those involved the oil and gas industry concerning royalty payments and the size and shape of units. Another emerged as a result of the Explo Systems storage of explosive materials in Webster Parish and the public coalition that worked to resolve the issue of how to safely and responsibly destroy the explosive materials in the absence of state law.

And he expressed strong concern for the Legislature’s handling of the Common Core issue.

He was equally critical of the legislative approach to solving budget issues saying when the state goes “from a $1 billion surplus to a $2 billion deficit in seven or eight short years” there’s a big problem not addressed by lawmakers.

“We’ve gotten real good at becoming a debtor state,” Gatti said. “We need to become a creditor state. Instead in the last 24 hours [of the legislative session], most of us were embarrassed by the way the budget was handled. We knew this can was going to be kicked again and no one did anything creative to fix it.”

Both Burns and Gatti had much more to say about their plans to represent District 36, and it doesn’t take much of a visit with either of these candidates to recognize that both are committed to working for the best for their prospective constituents and the district. But it will take committed, interested and involved voters to determine which of these two candidates, and perhaps an additional contender, can best represent the district.

And time for committed voters to start vetting candidates for Senate District 36 is now.

Marty Carlson, a freelance writer, has been covering local news for the past 17 years. She can be reached via email at martycarlson1218@ gmail.com.

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