EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The St. George issue is one step closer to heading to voters as organizers handed in their petition Monday afternoon.
They said the nine boxes held about 14,500 signatures, which is roughly 1,500 more than required.
“They showed overwhelmingly that they support the incorporation of St. George,” said Andrew Murrell.
Murrell, who represents the group, believes this time around, the mood was different, with more people energized around the movement.
“We’re tired of being taxed, we’re tired of bad schools, and we’re tired of not controlling our tax dollars and this is the sign that we’re not going to take it anymore,” said Murrell.
Opponents of the push say time will tell if those extra signatures are truly enough to make the mark. Michael Beychok with One Baton Rouge says it’s vital to determine which ones actually count.
“Last time when they turned in signatures, they had about 5,000, plus invalid signatures,” said Beychok. “We want to make sure that the people who signed the petition can legally sign the petition, so we’re anxious to get a look at it.”
Another delay to the process is not from an opposing group, but from time itself. While they are collecting the signatures, the Registrar of Voter’s Office will not be able to do much else until they hear from the attorney general on how exactly to move forward.
“We’re just waiting to hear back from them,” said Registrar Steve Raborn. “We’re asking how to count the petition and how to count the names and other things related to the petition. We haven’t received their formal answer on that yet.”
Like last time, annexation could also derail the effort as two businesses and a neighborhood are rumored to be leaning towards staying in Baton Rouge.
“It will have a real effect on how many taxes they’re able to raise and our contention has always been that they still don’t have the base to support their services,” said Beychok.
“All these fictitious businesses and neighborhoods, I would love to hear who they are because we haven’t heard a word about it,” Murrell added.
Now that those signatures have been collected, the fight over St. George seems to be far from over. Both sides are now urging people to focus on the facts as the proposed city inches one step closer to the ballot.
“When they throw out those miscellaneous facts and fear mongering, tell me where they got it from. Back it up,” said Murrell.
“We hired Dr. Jim Richardson at LSU, who is an independent economist, and his findings were that without question, their tax base will not support a city of their size,” Beychok added.
The group turned in the petition early. The deadline was not until November 27.
Aside from hearing from the attorney general, the Registrar of Voter’s Office has to also get through midterm elections at the end of the year before they can focus on counting the signatures. It could be spring or summer of 2019 before that process is completed.