La. Senate takes $7M from attorney general's fund, gives it to public schools

La. Senate takes $7 million from AG fund, gives it to public schools
Sen. Eric LaFleur on the Senate floor working on his amendment for HB 1047 (Source: WAFB)
Sen. Eric LaFleur on the Senate floor working on his amendment for HB 1047 (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana's public schools will receive $7 million to fill up a shortfall for this year as part of a plan advanced Thursday by the Senate. The money would come from a newly identified escrow account overseen by the Attorney General's Office.

"Fortunately, this money is now available to replenish it, so those districts are not going to be short that money in the current fiscal year," said Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, offered an amendment to the state's supplementary budget bill, moving the money. The Senate adopted the amendment without objection before unanimously approving the HB 1047.

The money would cover the costs of supplemental teacher salaries and other services for the fiscal year ending July 1.

Dardenne said the source of the money – the AG's escrow account – was created by the previous AG and it likely includes money from settled court cases.

"We were just made aware of this fund recently, and apparently it's a significant amount of money in an escrow account, some of which belongs apparently to some state agencies," Dardenne said.

LaFleur and Dardenne both indicated that the amendment to HB 1047 is not related to the ongoing dispute between the Governor's Office and the AG over $7 million of BP settlement money.

"It's coincidental, it's purely coincidental," LaFleur said.

In letters between the two offices, AG Jeff Landry indicated that the $7 million was "intended to reimburse the state, through the Attorney General, for costs and legal fees associated with general litigation in the case." The governor's office, meanwhile, believes the AG's office is being paid twice.

"It's totally coincidental that the need for the school districts is the same amount that the Attorney General managed to withhold from the BP settlement," Dardenne said. "That issue is still in dispute. We still don't think the AG should be able to keep that $7 million. It should go to CPRA for coastal projects."

The AG's office released the following statement in response to the amendment moving money away from the fund:

"Attorney General Jeff Landry supports a strong education system in Louisiana and also supports a strong Attorney General's office, which protects children from child predators."

HB 1047 now heads back to the House for consideration.

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