State Sen. Don Cravins, Jr. thinks Eunice should market itself as a center of quality educational opportunity.
Talking to constituents at a Town Hall meeting here Wednesday night, the enthusiastic Cravins viewed Eunice as unique among Louisiana communities. “You have perhaps the best two-year college in the country right here in your city. Plus you now have the T.H. Harris satellite program, a high quality high school and junior high, a vo-tech program and excellent elementary and middle schools,” he said.
“In effect, you have a seamless model, exactly what Gov. Jindal is talking about when he talks about education direction and job force development,” Cravins said.
Additionally, he said, a vo-tech program being piloted at the junior high level this year should come to Eunice next year. “We have the money and we can do it,” he told a seemingly enthusiastic audience.
He noted an educated work force, and the opportunity to get quality education for its employees, is at the top of the list for business and industry looking for new locations.
“There is no place else that has the opportunity to sell itself as a education center the way Eunice does,” he said.
The purpose of the Town Hall get together was to update citizens on results of two special legislative sessions held this year and the regular session which began last Monday.
Cravins said nothing was done in either special session that could not have been resolved in the regular convocation, but said he understood a new governor’s desire to take advantage of momentum from the fall election.
He did note that some of the ethics reforms made “hastily” will have to be reconsidered in the regular session as some of the well-intentioned legislation reveals some unintended effects.
The senator said he is excited about Jindal’s apparent enthusiasm for change in the education structure. “The governor’s the man in Louisiana. Without him, it doesn’t get done and education is still the key to our future prosperity,” he said.
Cravins reviewed several measures he has before the Legislature, including several dealing with insurance. He is chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee. They are written to create what he thinks would be more equitable balance in several instances.
“I’ve gotten a lot of grief already about my bill to ban radar-detecting devices, but at some point we have to start talking about these things that affect the cost of our auto insurance,” he said.
Cravins noted he is a member of the Property & Casualty Commission, which repeatedly hears about three things that drive up rates -- radar devices that impede the anti-speeding effort, the absence of a ban on talking or texting on a cell phone while driving and the law allowing 18-year-olds into drinking establishments, though they are not allowed, theoretically, to drink.
“Sooner or later we have to address such things. I probably can’t get the radar bill passed, but at least it will be in the public arena,” he said.
School support employees asked about a pay raise and he told them it is not currently in Jindal’s budget. “You need to work money committees (Finance and Appropriations) by phone and email. That’s where it will have to happen, and it should happen,” Cravins said.
Concern was expressed about diminishing state aid to non-profits, such as the company which operates the Boys and Girls Sanctuaries here. Cravins said Jindal had not expressed a feeling one way or another in the debate sparked by some who would cut entirely such aid.
He said he saw little change that the TOPS college tuition program will be tampered with.
A bill in the current session proposes to make it income instead of academics driven, and parents in the audience feared that would diminish its impact.
“If we didn’t have the money for such a program maybe there would be a need for some changes. But we’re projecting another $1 billion surplus in the upcoming year and for the next four or five. Why talk about cutting something as successful as TOPS?” he said.