State Senator addresses potential key topics in next legislative session

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 6:52 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Hurricane Ida disrupted a number of norms in the aftermath of her storm. One of them was AT&T’s telecommunications. Residents in at least 4 parishes, including the city of New Orleans, were unable to use their AT&T provided 911 call centers, including some of our first responders.

“I think there’s a lot of work to be done in that area, but it’s something we got to get right,” said Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee Sen. Rick Ward (R).

Sen. Ward of Port Allen told reporters at the Baton Rouge Press Club that Louisiana needs to find solutions to these problems before the natural disaster reveals itself. Families not being able to contact one another is bad enough, but first responders having issues is a whole different story.

“Whenever you have emergency personnel trying to respond to life and death situations and they can’t communicate...that is completely unacceptable,” said Sen. Ward.

According to Ward, lawmakers are having active discussions about what to do about the state’s contract with AT&T moving forward but do not have an answer yet as to what that outcome will look like. In addition to lost connection, another issue brought up was the state’s power grid. Homeowners may see surcharges to their power bills to cover the cost of repairs after a storm, something the state says needs to be fixed.

“You still might have a low rate in terms of the power production and all that but what do you end up having $40 in surcharges because you had 4 hurricanes in the course of 3 or 4 years,” Sen. Ward explained.

One of the ideas being tossed around is burying the powerlines underground to avoid any falling trees or debris. But that comes with a hefty price tag. Sen. Ward says whatever decision is made, the balance should be key.

“If you spend too much money to try to build it to sustain something that doesn’t happen too frequently, then that can also make the cost to where it’s something that’s not stainable for a lot of the population of the state,” Sen. Ward continued.

Talks like these about our power grid and contracts with service providers will likely be key topics in the next legislative session. Sen. Ward says they expect to hear from AT&T directly at the next Senate Commerce Committee in November to hopefully get some clear answers.

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