Heulette Fontenot

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Heulette Clovance
"Clo" Fontenot, Jr.​

Louisiana State Representative
for District 71 (Livingston Parish)​
In office
1996​ – 2000​
Preceded by Ernest Bernard Carrier​, Sr.
Succeeded by Dale Erdey

Louisiana State Senator for
District 13 (Livingston and East Baton Rouge parishes)​
In office
2000​ – 2008​
Preceded by Mike Branch​
Succeeded by Dale Erdey​

Born July 14, 1961​
​Place of birth missing

Resident of Livingston, Louisiana

Died September 29, 2019
(aged 58)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Gail Marie Lebourgeois Fontenot ​
Children Two children​

Parents:
Heulette and Myrle Ellen Bennett Fontenot​

Alma mater Louisiana State University
Occupation Operations supervisor for ExxonMobil
Religion Baptist
Notes:

(1) A member of the Christian Coalition, Fontenot was considered among the most conservative members of the Louisiana State Legislature during the administrations of Governors Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr., and Kathleen Blanco, having sponsored legislation to restrict homosexual preferences in the state.
​ ​ (2) Fontenot's legislation to prevent state officials from forcing persons fleeing from emergencies to abandon their pets was approved in both houses of the legislature without a single dissent.
​ ​ (3) Fontenot was also an economic conservative during his legislative career, having opposed minimum wage laws at the state level.​

Heulette Clovance Fontenot, Jr., known as Clo Fontenot (July 14, 1961 – September 29, 2019), was a businessman from Livingston, Louisiana, who served as a Republican member of both houses of his state's legislature between 1996 and 2008. He was a one-term member of the House from 1996 to 2000 and then served two terms in the Senate from 2000 to 2008. In 2007, he did not seek a third consecutive term in Senate District 13, which encompasses his own Livingston Parish and a portion of populous East Baton Rouge Parish.

Senator Fontenot was the author of the 2006 Pet Evacuation Act, passed amid shocking reports of numerous animals having been abandoned during the aftermath of deadly Hurricane Katrina.[1]

Background

​ Fontenot was the son of Heulette Fontenot, Sr. (1930-2012), and the former Myrle Ellen Bennett (1926-2014). The couple married in 1952; upon their deaths, they are interred at Red Oak Cemetery in Livingston Parish.[2]

At the time of his election to the state House, Fontenot was an operations supervisor for ExxonMobil. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.[3] He served two terms as an alderman in his community of Livingston prior to his legislative career. First elected on October 1, 1988, to the District A town council seat, Fontenot defeated a Democrat, Richard Rayborn, 265 votes (74 percent) to 92 (26 percent). For seven years, he was the lone Republican on the town council and ran without opposition in 1992.[4]

Fontenot was a Baptist and a member of the interfaith Christian Coalition, founded in 1989 by the Virginia evangelist Pat Robertson. He was married to the former Gail Marie Lebourgeois (born c. 1963), and the couple had two children. An Eagle Scout, he was affiliated with Boy Scouts Troop 80 in Livingston Parish and Kiwanis International.[3]​ ​

Legislative elections

​ Fontenot won the District 71 House seat in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 21, 1995, having narrowly unseated the two-term Democratic incumbent, Ernest Bernard Carrier (1929-2005), a native of Ferriday in Concordia Parish residing in Denham Springs in Livingston Parish.[5] Fontenot polled 8,312 votes (51.7 percent) to Carrier's 7,776 ballots (48.3 percent).[6] Carrier had first been elected as state representative over Richard Rayborn in the general election held on November 21, 1987, and then ran unopposed for a second term in 1991.[7] During the 1990s, the complexion of District 71 shifted strongly from historically Democrat to GOP allegiance.​

Fontenot was first elected to the District 13 Senate seat in the primary held on October 23, 1999. The incumbent Republican, Mike Branch, did not seek reelection in the conservative district. Branch's predecessor, Mike Cross, a Democrat, had in 1990 written the anti-abortion bill which garnered national attention and was vetoed by then Governor Buddy Roemer.[8] To claim the Senate seat, Fontenot hence defeated another Republican, Joseph "Joe" Greco, 27,328 votes (70.3 percent) to 11,561 (29.7 percent), as no Democrat filed for the position.[9] Fontenot was unopposed in the 2003 senatorial primary. In 2008, fellow Republican Dale Erdey, formerly a Democratic mayor of Livingston whose service coincided with Fontenot's aldermanic terms, succeeded Fontenot in the Senate. Erdey had also succeeded Fontenot in the House in 2000.

Fontenot did not run for reelection to the Senate in 2007 because his employer questioned whether further senatorial service, possibly in the leadership, would infringe on his job duties in the chemical industry.[10]​ ​

Pet evacuation

​ Fontenot took the lead in passage of the Pet Evacuation Act. He issued a statement of the importance of the legislation: ""I felt we were derelict in our duties to the citizens of Louisiana, because we didn't make arrangements for pets. A lot of people refused to evacuate because they weren't going to leave their pets behind."[1] The Fontenot legislation requires state and parish homeland security and emergency preparedness agencies "to consult with experts in the fields of animal sheltering, veterinary medicine, public health and safety, and other professional and technical personnel deemed appropriate to formulate emergency operation plans for the humane evacuation, transport, and temporary sheltering of service animals and household pets in times of emergency or disaster."[11] In New Orleans alone, approximately sixteen thousand animals were recovered but fewer than three thousand were reunited with their owners.[1] Large public gatherings met in Baton Rouge on April 17 and 18, 2006, to support the legislation.[1]

The legislature promptly passed the bill without opposition in either house. It is onsidered the most sweeping of its kind in the nation.[12]

Fontenot produced his own documentary entitled "Animal Rescue Katrina," directed by Josef Dykas. The film features animal rescuers and shelter volunteers during the hurricane evacuations in New Orleans and Mississippi. Fontenot appears as himself in the documentary.[13]

Other political activities

​ In 2000, Fontenot was the presidential elector for Louisiana's 6th congressional district for Republican nominees George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.[14]

In 2001, Fontenot authored legislation limiting the scope of homosexual preferences in Louisiana. His Senate Bill 232 prevents the state from recognizing "domestic partnerships or similar relationships" between same-sex couples. According to Fontenot, domestic partnerships "extend the rights and privileges of marriage."[15] The bill forbids the state from recognizing such partnerships accepted in other states. Fontenot said that he opposed the use of state taxpayer money to finance public employees' insurance programs that would cover same-sex arrangements. The Fontenot bill drew strong opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union, which declared the legislation a violation of full faith and credit in Article IV of the United States Constitution.[15]

In 2002, Fontenot supported legislative colleague Tony Perkins of Baton Rouge for the United States Senate seat held and won again by the Democrat Mary Landrieu of New Orleans. Perkins later became president of the Family Research Council, a position formerly held by Gary Bauer, an unsuccessful candidate for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination.[16]

In 2006, Senator Fontenot opposed a measure to raise the minimum wage for Louisiana state employees incrementally to $6.15 an hour by October 1, 2007. The bill also would have required that if the U.S. Congress raised the federal minimum wage, then state employees would receive the higher federal minimum wage. The measure died in the Senate. Even Walter Boasso, a Republican state senator from south Louisiana who the next year switched parties to run for governor against Bobby Jindal, voted against the minimum wage bill.[17]

Indictment

​ On May 6, 2010, Fontenot was indicted for having allegedly accepted a cash campaign loan of $100,000 in 1999 from two unnamed businessmen. The U.S. government maintained that Fontenot concealed the existence of that debt when he applied for home loans from federally insured lenders in 2001 and 2004.[18]

Fontenot's attorney, Lewis O. Unglesby, said "There was no ethics violation. More importantly, there was no banking loss. Those loans were paid off years ago. It's pathetic. And he [Fontenot] is going to win." However, Fontenot admitted taking the money, burning the bag in his back yard and hiding the money in his attic, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.[18]

Accidental death

Fontenot was killed at the age of fifty-eight of injuries sustained in an automobile accident on a Sunday morning in 2019 in Livingston Parish. He failed to yield to an oncoming Lexus while he attempted to turn left. His car was hit on the passenger side. Fontenot was not wearing his seat belt. The driver and the passenger of the Lexus received minor injuries.[19]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Never Again: Louisiana Pet Evacuation Bill Provides for People and Pets in a Disaster. kinshipcircle.org. Retrieved on October 23, 2009.
  2. Myrle Ellen Fontenot. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on October 1, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Louisiana Encyclopedia (1999), on-line: "Louisiana House District 71."
  4. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 1, 1988.
  5. Ernest Bernard Carrier, Sr.. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on October 1, 2019.
  6. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 21, 1995.
  7. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 21, 1987.
  8. Garry Boulard (July 8, 1990). Abortion Bill Veto Override in Louisiana Fails. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on October 1, 2019.
  9. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 23, 1999.
  10. ​Senator Dale M. Erdey. Louisianagovernmentalstudies.com. Retrieved on October 1, 2019.
  11. SENATE BILL NO. 607. Louisiana State Senate (2006). Retrieved on October 29, 2009; no longer on-line.
  12. John Gramlich. Legislators help pets in disasters. stateline.org. Retrieved on October 23, 2009; no longer on-line.
  13. Animal Rescue Katrina. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on October 23, 2009.
  14. U.S. presidential electors, 2000. archives.gov. Retrieved on October 23, 2009.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Louisiana Bill Would Ban Domestic Partner Benefits. ambushmag.com. Retrieved on October 23, 2009; no longer on-line.
  16. Livingston, Louisiana Political Contributions by Individuals. city-data.com. Retrieved on October 23, 2009.
  17. Minimum Wage for State Employees. votesmart.org. Retrieved on October 23, 2009; no longer on-line.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Bill Lodge (May 8, 2010). Attorney: Ex-senator to beat fed charges. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on May 8, 2010; no longer on-line.
  19. Youssef Rddad (September 29, 2019). Former Louisiana Senator "Clo" Fontenot killed in Livingston car crash. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on October 1, 2019.
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