Legislature Hobbles Two Anti-St. George Bills But James Bill on Parishwide Vote Is Still Alive
Efforts to incorporate the proposed City of St. George have come under full-fledged assault in the current session of the Louisiana Legislature with a number of bills to make it more difficult for a new city to incorporate.
Of the three major bills that would hamper St. George, two have been amended to make them less harmful. However, one important bill that could completely derail St. George remains very much alive.
Here is the status of key legislation:
• SB 674 by Sen. Nevers — Would place a two-year moratorium on the creation of new municipalities in order to study the issue. As originally introduced, the bill would have applied to St. George and stopped it in its tracks. However, the bill has been amended to limit its impact. Under the amendments, a petition already underway would be exempt from the two-year moratorium until after this November’s election. So, if this bill passed in its present form, supporters of St. George would have until July 23, the cutoff date for the November election, to turn in signatures. If they miss that deadline and the bill passes, it would be another two years before a new petition drive could be mounted. In that case, the rules could be changed again during the two-year moratorium. Ironically, Nevers’ bill has no funding source. So St. George supporters think the bill is not about studying anything but about stopping St. George.
• HB 768 by Rep. Price — To limit the time for circulating an incorporation petition to 180 days. The movement to incorporate St. George has widespread support, but it has already taken eight months. So supporters believe 180 days is insufficient. The bill was amended in committee to allow 18 months
to gather petition signatures.
• HB 1212 by Rep. James — At present, the proposed incorporation of a new municipality is voted on by the residents of the proposed city. However, this bill by Rep. James would allow the vote to be decided parishwide. Supporters of St. George say that the requirement would be undemocratic and would likely kill the incorporation. This bill passed out of the House Municipal and Parochial Affairs Committee, one of the most liberal committees in the legislature. It is now pending on the House floor.
St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey said all these bills attempt to change the rules in the middle of the game. He compared it to one of the coaches in a football game being able to change the rules to favor his side. “It is fundamentally unfair and undemocratic,” he said. If any of the bills slips through, Rainey said he is hoping Gov. Jindal will veto them.
St. George chairman Norman Browning said it is important for citizens to call their legislators and express their opposition to these bills.