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James R. Fannin

 

James R. Fannin

James Roy "Jim" Fannin
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from District 13 (Bienville, Jackson, Ouachita, and Winn parishes)
In office
2003 – Incumbent
Preceded by Rodney Alexander
Personal details
Born (1949-05-30) May 30, 1949 (age 65)
Winn Parish, Louisiana, USA
Political party Republican (2013-present)

Democratic (until 2013)

Spouse(s) Kitty Davis Fannin
Children James Matthew Fannin
Residence Jonesboro, Jackson Parish, Louisiana
Alma mater Winnfield Senior High School

Northwestern State University
Louisiana Tech University

Occupation Businessman; former Educator
Religion Baptist
Fannin successfully pushed for passage in 2009 of a Louisiana law which permits high school students to follow a "career diploma" path, instead of pursuing traditional studies geared toward higher education.

James Roy Fannin (born May 30, 1949), known as Jim Fannin, is the Democratic chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives. He is a former educator and active businessman in Jonesboro, the seat of Jackson Parish in north Louisiana, In 2003, Fannin was elected to represent House District 13 (Jackson, Bienville, Ouachita, and Winn parishes). He succeeded Rodney Alexander of Quitman, who resigned to become the United States Representative from Louisiana's 5th congressional district. Fannin is chairman of the Louisiana Rural Caucus and a former member of the Legislative Democratic Caucus.[1]

On July 11, 2013, Fannin announced that he has switched his affiliation to the Republican Party. Fannin said that his former party had "moved too far left" for him to remain within the ranks, even as a Blue Dog Democrat. There is speculation that Fannin will run in 2015 for the 35th District seat in the Louisiana State Senate now held by the term-limited Republican incumbent Robert "Bob" Kostelka of Monroe.[2] Days after Fannin's defection, Senator Rick Ward, III, of Iberville Parish also switched parties.[3]


Early years, education, family

Fannin is one of four children born in Winn Parish to John Thomas Fannin (1914–2003)[4] and the former Mollie Jean Ray (born ca. 1924). The senior Fannin worked for a time for Brown and Root Construction Company and later farmed and engaged in carpentry.[5] Fannin is married to the former Kitty Davis (born September 15, 1951), a niece of the late Democratic Governor Jimmie Davis. Their son is James Matthew Fannin (born April 30, 1974).

In 1967, Fannin graduated from Winnfield Senior High School. One of his classmates was a future legislative colleague, State Senator Mike Smith, a Winnfield automobile dealer.[6] After high school, Fannin first studied agricultural education at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, but the program was abolished before he could complete his studies. He therefore transferred to Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, where he met his future wife. While in college, Fannin was elected to the Winn Parish Democratic Executive Committee. He also was a member for seven years of the Louisiana National Guard. He first taught agriculture at Sikes High School in Sikes in Winn Parish before relocating to Jackson Parish, where he owns and operates Fannin Feeds.[7]

Election contests

Prior to his legislative service, Fannin served at least one term on the Jackson Parish Police Jury, the parish governing council. He won the Ward 2 seat in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 21, 1995.[8] In the legislative special election held on February 15, 2003, Fannin, with 2,092 votes (30.8 percent) led by 44 votes over fellow Democrat William Todd Culpepper, who received 2,048 votes (30.2 percent). Three other candidates held the remaining, but critical, 39 percent of the ballots.[9] In the runoff election on March 15, Fannin prevailed, 3,596 (56.1 percent) to Culpepper's 2,815 votes (43.9 percent).[10]

The special election was for a term of less than one calendar year. Therefore, Fannin ran again in the regular primary election on October 4. Again in a multi-candidate field, he was forced into a second round of balloting, called the general election in Louisiana, with Todd Culpepper. Fannin led with 6,445 votes (42.8 percent) to Culpepper’s 3,997 (26.5 percent).[11] In the November 15 general election, Fannin again prevailed over Culpepper, 8,061 (55.6 percent) to 6,447 (44.4 percent).[12] In 2007, Fannin won resoundingly over another Democrat, Jason E. Cook, 10,551 (78.6 percent) to 2,879 (21.4 percent).[13]

Legislative leadership

Fannin was appointed chairman of the Appropriations Committee by Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican. While Fannin was seeking to be named the representative from the 5th congressional district on the House Appropriations Committee, he was contacted by Jindal as well as then House Speaker Jim Tucker of Terrytown in Jefferson Parish, who offered him the committee chairmanship.[7]

Fannin described the post as "a huge responsibility. . . . [In] many ways the Appropriations chairmanship is on a footing equal to Speaker, because it originates and passes all bills relating to spending. And it is important for [the less-populated] North Louisiana, which often feels overlooked in dealings in the legislature."[7]

Appropriations committee membership totals nineteen, of which seven are elected, one each from the seven congressional districts, by fellow House members within the congressional district. Others are appointed by the House Speaker. Appropriations is the only House committee which elects a portion of its own membership, with others being appointed by the Speaker.[7]

In the 2004-2008 session, Fannin served on the Transportation Committee, having ended his service as chairman. He tackled numerous measures involving forestry and logging. He also served on the Agriculture Committee, where he planned to continue sitting as an ad hoc non-voting member. Reelected in 2011, Fannin will be term-limited in the 2015 primaries.[7]

Reflecting his background in education, Fannin was the author in the House of the "career diploma" law that was signed in 2009 by Governor Jindal.[14] The legislation permits high school students to receive a lower-tier diploma by taking less rigorous courses if they do not intend to continue their studies after graduation. Fannin predicted that his plan would reduce the state's school dropout rate,[15] which was the highest in the nation at 8.4 percent for the 2005–2006 school year.[16] The measure drew opposition from the Campaign for High School Equity, a Rockefeller Foundation program in Washington, D.C. More than one third of high school students in Louisiana leave before receiving diplomas. CHSE said that the new measure "allows students fifteen and older to opt out of the standard curriculum with parental consent" and permits eighth graders to advance to the ninth grade without passing the state standardized tests. The CHSE claims that this will mean lowered academic standards that will disproportionately affect low-income and minority students.[15]

References

Preceded by
Rodney Alexander
Louisiana State Representative from District 13 (Bienville, Jackson, Ouachita, and Winn parishes)

James Roy "Jim" Fannin
2003 –

Succeeded by
Incumbent

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