The Delta Regional Authority announced last week $22.7 million in economic development projects throughout the state.

The Delta Regional Authority provides economic development assistance to 252 counties or parishes in part of eight states that include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Louisiana received the most money for its 14 projects supported by the authority. The agency provided $1.7 million and leveraged another $20.9 million through state, local and private dollars for the projects.

The largest project will be $8.4 million that will go toward expanding the Port of Iberia’s industrial complex by extending barge channel access to 108-acres of new development.

LaPlace will receive $440,000 for an airport lift station to replace an outdated septic system.

Franklinton will receive $317,256 to extend and upgrade natural gas distribution lines. The project will involve 4.5 miles of distribution lines for existing and new customers.

“These are smart investments for Louisiana particularly,” authority Chairman Chris Masingill said.

Vitter drug bill falls short

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., fell short last week of his attempt to expand the importation of drugs from Canada.

Vitter introduced an amendment that would allow American consumers to purchase Canadian drugs over the Internet. Vitter was successful in the last Congress of having legislation passed that allowed people to bring prescription drugs across the Canadian-U.S. border for personal use.

In 2004, Vitter ran on a plank that included a pledge to push for legislation that would allow for the re-importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. Vitter produced a memorable campaign ad in which he appeared on a split screen, standing in Louisiana and snow-covered Canada talking about the higher prescription drug prices in the United States.

Vitter continued highlighting the price difference in his appeal to colleagues last week. Vitter noted that the drug Nexium costs $635 in the U.S. while in Canada the same volume of the drug is $386.

Lipitor costs $572 in the U.S. and $378 in Canada, he said. And Plavix is priced at $644 in the U.S. versus $378 in Canada, Vitter noted.

“It hits millions of Americans,” Vitter said in urging his colleagues for support. “It hits seniors particularly hard.”

Critics of the amendment raised their concerns about the safety of imported drugs. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., likened it to importing “death.” All of the drugs would be those that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Vitter said.

“I do not believe and I would not offer this amendment if I did believe this amendment expands vulnerabilities or concerns at all,” Vitter said.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American, the nation’s chief

drug lobby, has opposed the effort, citing safety requirements. Vitter called the vote about “money and power and politics in Washington.”

The Vitter amendment failed, 45-55. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., voted against the amendment.

Landrieu wants changes

Landrieu joined in a letter last week asking Senate colleagues to strengthen provisions in education legislation that requires all states to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

Landrieu supports the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, she said, but wants the measure to call on states to develop teacher and principal evaluations that consider student achievement and classroom observations.

The evaluations should be used in implementing personnel decisions such as tenure, compensation, promotion and dismissals of teachers and principals, Landrieu said.

“It is a more important single influence on student performance than race or socio-economic status and the best way to improve student achievement,” Landrieu wrote in a letter to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Compiled by The Advocate’s Washington bureau. Contact email is