‘LaPolitics’: Legislation takes aim at river pilots

For many years, the mounting disagreements between the state’s Mississippi River pilots and the biggest businesses along the river have taken place in courtrooms and executive boardrooms. Those low-profile disagreements typically pit pilots making on average $500,000 annually against the massive energy and petrochemical corporations that pepper the big, muddy river. The state Capitol has been neutral ground in recent years and kept free of such entanglements. But that may change during the regular session based on the trajectory of HB650 by Rep. Thomas Pressly, R-Shreveport. The bill targets two of the state’s four pilot groups, the New Orleans Baton Rouge Steamship Pilots and the Crescent River Port Pilots’ Association. The Legislation has been assigned to the House Commerce Committee, but there’s no word yet on when the bill might be heard. Given the resources on both sides, the initial hearing would be a mile-marker for this legislative year. In fact, some supporters believe the debate alone would be a win, since the public rarely gets to hear about pilot-related policy issues. Groups like the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association and Louisiana Chemical Association are among the proponents. Both have members that share similar complaints about the pilot associations—like the piloting rules that were changed during last year’s high-water event that were never changed back and allegations of over-collections. Members of LMOGA and LCA also have concerns over a proposal that would create a pay parity between the two associations. Pressly’s bill seeks to address some of these complaints and concerns by “reforming” the associations’ boards, from increasing diversity and open meetings to the makeup of members. Most all of the changes put forth in the legislation for the two pilot associations have already been implemented by the Lake Charles Pilots.

They said it: “Could you confuse me some more?”—Appropriations Chair Zee Zeringue, R-Houma, asking for a clarification during a medical vendor administration presentation.  

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.