Capitol Brief: Gabe Firment, District 22

At the beginning of each new year I try to take a few minutes to review the 70 Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards – an itemized list of guiding life principles composed by the 18 year old Puritan pastor who would become perhaps the greatest theologian and thinker ever born on American soil. The Resolutions encompass a wide array of topics, including character, good works, relationships, time management, suffering, and spiritual disciplines, but the First Resolution establishes the foundational rule that the other Resolutions rely on – to live for God’s glory in a manner that benefits mankind no matter the cost. Although some may consider it an exercise in futility, it is my sincere desire going into the upcoming legislative session to evaluate our priorities and achievements in light of the lofty standard established by Edwards’ First Resolution.

Given the current state of affairs in our nation and state, it is my opinion that there is nothing more important for government at all levels to strive for than protecting our families from the myriad of dangers and challenges assailing families on all fronts. The legislature did experience some success in defending families last session, but we must build upon those victories this upcoming session and in the years to come. Most notably, last year Louisiana passed the strongest pro-life legislation in the country, enacted the first law of its kind in the USA that requires age verification to access online pornographic content, and we passed a bill to protect our daughters and granddaughters by preventing boys from competing in girls’ sports. These actions, along with historic investments in teacher pay, higher education, and infrastructure paved the way for the great work that we still have to do to keep our children home in Louisiana to pursue and a safe and prosperous future.

Perhaps the greatest problem facing our state today is the rampant crime that is tearing apart our cities and forcing so many of our citizens to live in constant fear. This crime crisis is not confined to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport, but has also infected our mid-sized cities and rural towns and villages here in North Central Louisiana. I expect to see a concerted effort by the state legislature to roll back some of the criminal justice “reforms” enacted in 2017 prior to my entering the legislature. Although these so-called reforms were bi-partisan and well-intended, there are few people reading this article who would not agree that our state is a more dangerous place than it was prior to the enactment of these laws. It is our duty as lawmakers to see that the punishment fits the crime, and that violent offenders are kept off the streets and away from our loved ones.

Education will continue to be an area of intense debate this upcoming legislative session. There is no doubt that if we are going to prosper as a state, we must invest in education and provide educators with the resources needed to effectively do their jobs. However, simply throwing money at our public schools without demanding improvements in educational outcomes is not acceptable. The legislature must ensure that teachers are adequately compensated, fairly evaluated, and focused on teaching the basic academic skills that allow children to become productive members of society. We must also continue to empower parents, encourage parental participation in education, and keep radical ideologies such as Critical Race Theory and Gender Identity out of our schools.

This upcoming session is a “fiscal” session, which means that legislators can only file (5) “general” bills – all other instruments(with some exceptions) must address fiscal issues such as tax policy, appropriations, or budgeting. I anticipate that there will be numerous bills filed to address tax reform in Louisiana, and we will likely see heated debate around ambitious proposals such as eliminating the state income tax. I absolutely agree that significant tax reform is needed if Louisiana is going to establish itself as a business friendly state like so many of our neighbors, but it is honestly difficult to imagine any comprehensive tax reform occurring this year with a Democratic governor and election year dynamics that may lead to much political grandstanding but little in the way of accomplishment when it comes to reforming our tax system. However, going forward we must pass common sense reforms that ensure taxes in Louisiana are generally lower, fairer, and simpler than our current system.

Although we may see little in the way of tax reform this session, I am somewhat more optimistic that we could see fairly significant spending reforms both through legislation and possibly through the resolve of conservative representatives who understand that we have a moral imperative to spend taxpayers’ money responsibly. The Revenue Estimating Conference is currently projecting $1.7 billion in excess/surplus funds, however, we also know that the outlook is much bleaker in coming years when pandemic relief and hurricane relief money dries up and the temporary $.45 sales tax passed a few years ago expires. The resolve of conservative legislators will surely be tested, but we simply cannot afford to spend this one-time surplus money on recurring expenditures and create future obligations that cannot be met without raising taxes or making draconian cuts in areas such as healthcare and higher education. I am encouraged to be part of a group of conservative Republican legislators that have been meeting the past few months to discuss these fiscal challenges and formulate solutions.

I will be advocating this session for some of the surplus funds available to be allocated to one-time, non-recurring investments in badly needed infrastructure improvements. No one can argue that investing in long-neglected infrastructure needs such as roads and bridges, sewer and water, and rural broadband is not a wise use of the state’s surplus money. District 22 and the entire state has benefited greatly from this legislature’s investment in the Water Sector Program and GUMBO(Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities) Program. District 22 communities realized over $35 million to shore up deteriorated water and sewer systems through the Water Sector Program, and will see over $15 million in funding for high speed internet through the GUMBO program. These are worthwhile projects that see an immediate return on the state’s investment.

Although these are the major items I expect the legislature to address this session, there will undoubtedly be much discussion over important topics such as out of control insurance costs, second amendment rights, protecting children from experimental medical gender assignment procedures, and defending the unborn. Please rest assured that I will continue to fight to protect our families and do everything I can to ensure that our children and grandchildren have an opportunity to succeed and prosper. In closing, I pray that we all adopt the pledge of Thomas Paine who vowed “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my children may have peace”. Thank you and God Bless.

Gabe Firment
District 22 State Representative
(318)765-9606 – office