WESTLAKE — District 35 State Rep. Stephen Dwight gave the Westlake City Council a brief legislative update at their Monday night meeting.
“The big issue this session was the budget fight,” he said. “How much we were going to raise or renew, where are we going to cut.”
Dwight said reaching any sort of consensus amongst representatives has become increasingly difficult. “Some of them just don’t want to give the governor a victory, others just want to stab the Republicans in the back. That’s what we’re dealing with,” he said. “You think Washington’s bad? I think Louisiana is starting to get there. We have both extremes fighting and the rest of us in the middle trying to work it out.”
Dwight credited Mayor Bob Hardey and Vernon Meyer with Meyer and Associates for being at the capitol “almost weekly” during the session “fighting for money.”
Dwight said there were more than 2,000 bills filed and debated over the session. And, according to him, the best news for Westlake was the passage of Sen. Ronnie Johns’ gaming legislation. House Bill 316 allows casinos to remove their paddlewheels and move landside.
“The biggest thing for the City of Westlake is that now, wherever the boat is berthed, they can go within 1,200 feet of that location landside,” said Dwight. “Twelve-hundred feet from the Isle of Capri is actually within the city limits of Westlake. With all the boats throughout Louisiana, I think the City of Westlake will benefit most.”
The legislation also changes how size restrictions are applied. Prior to passage, gaming areas could be no larger than 30,000 square feet.
Johns’ bill allows for area to be measured in “slot spaces” to account for the increase in slot machine size. The legislation calls for a limit of 2,350 spaces. Each slot machine, and its corresponding seat, as well as each seat at a card table, is considered a “space.” The bill also allows for four poker tournaments a year.
Mayor Hardey said that while Sen. Johns introduced the bill, Dwight made its passage possible by carrying it through the House.