CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - A proposed ordinance changing the Caddo Parish Commission's travel policy is moving forward.
The Caddo Commission voted Monday to place the ordinance on the agenda for their regular meeting Thursday.
Under the current travel policy, commissioners are able to spend up to $15,000 attend education and training opportunities related to their elected duties.
The policy has led to some commissioners nearly maxing out their spending caps each year. It is an issue newly sworn in commissioner Steven Jackson tackled at his first meeting in office, by introducing an ordinance slashing the travel fund in half.
However, after much discussion, it was sent to a committee for further discussion and revisions. On February 16, the committee met and changes were made to the ordinance, which includes taking out the spending cap, but limiting where the commissioners can travel.
According to the proposed revision, each commissioner would be able to attend the following pre-approved annual meetings:
- The Louisiana Police Jury Association of Louisiana Convention
- Two additional national meetings sponsored by the National Association of Counties
- The National Association of Black County Officials or the American Counties for Energy Independence
- Louisiana Legislation Day at the capitol
Jackson believes the revised version of the ordinance is stricter than the one he initially introduced.
"By defining where you can go, I do believe it will save some tax payer dollars," said Commissioner Jackson.
However, not all citizens are on board with the idea of taking away a spending cap.
"Once the tax payers learn they took that limit off, it will raise some eyebrows, I think there needs to be a limit," said Shreveport resident Rob Broussard, who agrees with limiting travel, but believes a spending limit is needed.
"Nobody wants to give anybody an unlimited credit card to travel as many times as they want," said Broussard.
According to the proposed ordinance, the list of pre-approved trips does not include the annual "Washington D.C. Mardi Gras" trip.
"You basically can't go to Washington Mardi Gras unless the board approves you to go," said Jackson.
Itemized expense reports reveal, for the 2016 event, it cost taxpayers between $3,000 - $4,000 to send three commissioners and the parish administrator to the themed lobbying event.
However, Caddo Commissioner Lyndon Johnson feels it is worth it, "One thing I want to let people know is Washington Mardi Gras is, it isn't just one big party," Johnson said.
Commissioner Johnson, who has attended the event the past three years, explained the event gives local leaders a chance to take parish issues to congressmen.
According to Johnson, he lobbies for federal funding for I-49, Amtrack in Shreveport, and a Red River study.
"You want to be there at the table and if you aren't at the table, how do you expect to get any dollars?" he said.
While commissioner Johnson considers Washington Mardi Gras important, he says he's ok with it not being listed as a pre-approved trip on the proposed ordinance.
"It is up to the body, if the body doesn't want that type of representation, then that is it," said Johnson.
The commission will talk about and vote on the travel policy changes this Thursday at their regular meeting.
KSLA News 12 checked in with the other governing bodies in Caddo-Bossier about Washington Mardi Gras: Both Shreveport and Bossier City Councils say they do not pay for any council members to go to that event.
In 2016, Bossier Police Jury sent 3 police jurors, the police jury attorney, and parish engineer at a total cost of $11,174.20 dollars. However, Bossier Parish Secretary Sheryl Thomas noted because of the snow storm in the area and all outgoing flights were canceled, their stay was longer than intended.