When the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana’s budget was severely cut by Gov. Bobby Jindal during last year’s session, Lafayette’s legislators, including state Rep. Vincent Pierre, raised hell.

But Pierre seems to have had a change of heart when it comes to CODOFIL, as his amendment to Rep. Mike Huval’s HB 147 — had it not been struck down during the Senate’s vote Tuesday — would have done just as Jindal did last year: pull potential money from CODOFIL.

 Photo by Elizabeth Rose
 Rep. Vincent Pierre shows his support for CODOFIL at Cochon's Lache Pas fundraiser in August.

Huval’s bill, in its original form, calls for the creation of “I’m Cajun ... and proud” license plates, designed by CODOFIL. The plates come with a $15 fee, and the proceeds, based on the original legislation, are to benefit CODOFIL’s La Fondation Louisiane for the Escadrille Louisiane scholarship program. The CODOFIL scholarship sends graduate students to France to be immersed in the French culture, and upon returning, those students then work as French Immersion teachers in public schools throughout the state.

Pierre’s amendment called for an “I’m Creole ... and proud” license plate to be offered in addition to the “I’m Cajun” plates, which the Senate did approve.

Like his push to save the dilapidated Holy Rosary Institute by redirecting $200,000 in state funds from the Cajundome and Convention Center to a private non-profit called Holy Rosary Redevelopment (a group that does not actually own the school or its surrounding property), Pierre’s amendment to HB 147 eliminated CODOFIL from any involvement in the “I’m Creole” plates.

CODOFIL was instead substituted by Holy Rosary Redevelopment as the designer of the "I'm Creole" plates, in addition to being named the sole beneficiary of all the proceeds derived from them. Also similar to his bill to redirect funds from the Cajundome, Pierre’s license plate amendment was sparse on details, giving the appearance that Holy Rosary was a viable institution capable of providing scholarships, in much the same way CODOFIL does, to students in the near future.

After a little research by Sen. Robert Adley, the Senate, just before casting its final vote, got the full story.

As reported by Gannett’s Capital Bureau reporter Mike Hasten, here are Adley’s comments to his fellow senators regarding Pierre’s amendment:

[O]n the Senate floor Tuesday ... Adley, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, got the Senate to strip that amendment and give the funds back to CODOFIL.

“This particular school takes millions of dollars to restore,” Adley, R-Benton, told the Senate. He said his amendment “moves the funding back to scholarships and not  leaving it to rebuild some school building that would have to be restored before it could take scholarships. As we looked deeper into this, we found the situation at the school.”

More troubling about Pierre’s license plate amendment is the vow of support he pledged to CODOFIL only a year ago.

In a June 2012 report by Richard Burgess of the Advocate’s Acadiana Bureau, Pierre was one of several area legislators who took Jindal “to task” for cutting CODOFIL’s funding by $100,000, about 40 percent of its total operating budget. Speaking at a June 21, 2012, event protesting Jindal’s decision, held at Vermilionville, here’s Pierre’s comment as reported by the Advocate: “To have our governor cut this program is cutting our home.”

Also at that event, Pierre vowed to ensure CODOFIL’s funding would be restored during the 2013 session. And that wasn’t the last of it, as Pierre and other local lawmakers continued their fight for CODOFIL over the coming months, making appearances at various fundraisers — like the Lache Pas event at the former Cochon in River Ranch — held to help make up for the organization’s lost revenues.

Pierre has yet responded to a voicemail left Wednesday morning on his cell phone.

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