U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins wants to support Louisiana tourism and economic development with “common sense legislation,” which could mean rolling back regulations that are hurting the industry.

“From a legislative point of view, we have to explore what ways tourism has been injured by regulatory overreach,” Higgins said Monday during a visit to Lafayette. “A big part of this congress has been (about) rolling back.”

Higgins met with Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Mayor-President Robideaux and regional tourism officials from across Southwest Louisiana for a meeting and tour of Acadian Village in Lafayette.

The conversation repeatedly turned to money.

During the tour, Acadian Village Director Thomas Gotte pointed out that the attraction’s budget is being cut more than $1 million.

It sees more than 75,000 visitors a year and proceeds benefit LARC, which serves nearly 300 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We all have something in common. We could use more money to get the job done,” LARC Executive Director Glenn Weber said.

In President Donald J. Trump’s proposed federal budget some line items are “zeroed out,” meaning no funding is proposed for coastal restoration, national heritage areas in Louisiana or the state’s partnership with BrandUSA that markets states to potential international visitors.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without our partners, our commitment and BrandUSA and the dollars it has put into marketing Louisiana,” said Kyle Edmiston, assistant secretary of the state Office of Tourism.

Higgins, who represents the 3rd District of Louisiana, assured the group that budget won’t be the final word for Louisiana.

“We feel very confident funding for (Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act) will be in any budget that passes the House,” Higgins said.

The group also discussed maintaining the Open Skies Agreement, reinstating and raising a passenger facility charge at airports and other ways to grow tourism.

Some of those efforts already have begun, as Nungesser described a new statewide Bass Trail, the Ambassador program and a campaign encouraging Louisianans to “staycation.”

“Tourism in Louisiana has been a cornerstone of economic stability,” Higgins said. “… It’s very important we maintain a focus on what we can do to continue the healthy tradition and on what we can do to help it to grow.”

He said the key will be keeping focus.

“Every Louisianan is impacted by tourism, one way or another,” he said. “…It’s important we don’t overlook it because it’s been around forever or because it’s been healthy.”

Leigh Guidry, The Daily Advertiser

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