by Bambi Polotzola
On June 21, 2013 in the late afternoon, Bobby Jindal announced that he was vetoing funding for services for people with developmental disabilities and giving some of that funding to build a race track for one of his wealthy donors. People with disabilities and their families had spent months during the legislative session to secure funds that would help some of the over 10,000 people who are on a waiting list receive services so that they could live more independently. Bi-partisan support was achieved and legislators included funds in the budget. Imagine our devastation when we received word of the veto!
Hundreds of advocates and our allies worked day in and day out, night and day for 21 days to get the veto overridden. John Bel Edwards was a leader in the House of Representatives. He worked with us and was instrumental in getting the votes needed in the House. I’ll never forget his leadership, compassion, and friendship. The Saturday morning after the votes were in (we lost in the Senate), I was exhausted, still sleeping, when my phone rang. It was John Bel and he said how sorry he was for the loss, for the families affected, and he promised he would continue to work with us for people with disabilities.
He has not let us down. He is on the House Education Committee and has been instrumental in passing legislation that will now give my son Chas, who has autism, an opportunity to earn a real high school diploma. Prior to that, the efforts and abilities of students with disabilities were marginalized to the point that they had no pathway to a diploma. John Bel also stood up for teachers time and time again after years of them being demonized and not supported. He held the budget hostage late into the last night of the 2014 legislative session until he could secure the only pay increase that teachers received in Jindal’s administration.
John Bel Edwards did not do this alone. Many other legislators were instrumental and I’ll forever be grateful to them. But John Bel is a leader among leaders and those that know him and have worked with him know he’s a man of integrity and genuine concern for the people of Louisiana. With that, I commit that I will spend the next 21 days working as hard as I did during those 21 days in the summer of 2013 to ensure that we WIN this one and John Bel Edwards becomes our next governor.
Bambi Polotzola is chair of the St. Landry Parish Democratic Executive Committee and a member of the Democratic Women of Acadiana. A mother of two with a full-time job, Bambi is a tireless advocate for the disabled and a friend of club president Ann Porter. This essay is published with her permission.