Notes from New Orleans: Bill Requiring LSU Funding Approval Wins 94-2

Posted on: June 4th, 2009 by Walter Gallas

By a vote of 94 to 2, the Louisiana House on Wednesday passed House Bill 780, which would require LSU to have the financing plan for its proposed new hospital approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget before it could purchase or seize property on the proposed Lower Mid-City site.

We spent two days in Baton Rouge again talking to lawmakers. On Tuesday, we managed to speak to about one-fifth of the 105-member body, and our tallies showed a decided lean toward passing what essentially is a simple bill calling for good fiscal practices.

With the exception of Representative Juan Lafonta, the New Orleans legislators didn’t seem strongly inclined to pass the bill when we spoke to them—remaining non-committal, vague in their support, or somewhat hostile to it. Nevertheless, seven of the eleven New Orleans legislators voted for the bill, with three absent, and one voting no. The no vote from New Orleans was from Rep. Karen Carter Peterson, Speaker Pro Tem of the House, who presided over the vote. The Charity Hospital building is in her district.

Rep. Lafonta rose to speak to his colleagues before the vote, saying without this bill there were no checks and balances on LSU. He talked about the possible demolition of a neighborhood and referred to the billboard on the interstate approach to Baton Rouge which states “Want to save $283 million? Reopen Charity Hospital.” The billboard is the work of theFoundation for Historical Louisiana (FHL).

This was another great effort in the beautiful halls of the Art Deco State Capital which included myself; Sandra Stokes of FHL; Mickey Weiser, owner of Weiser Security located in Lower Mid-City on the proposed LSU site; Brad Ott of the Committee to Re-Open Charity Hospital; Michelle Kimball of the Preservation Resource Center; Jack Davis, NTHP trustee; and Jonah Evans of SaveCharityHospital.com.

We appreciate everyone’s support of this latest effort, another chapter in the unfolding drama that could decide the fate of an ill-conceived plan for medical facilities in New Orleans.

The bill moves to the Senate next week, where it first needs to pass out of committee.

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