Debate over St. George transition bill turns nasty

Things get heated at state capitol when La. lawmakers discuss City of St. George proposal

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Things got heated Wednesday, May 15 at the state capitol while lawmakers discussed a proposal for the City of St. George.

The bill at issue basically lays the groundwork for St. George to transition to its own city if the voters approve it in October.

The language of the bill requires the City of St. George to assume its share of the parish debt if it breaks away. That’s estimated to be around $100 million. Senate Democrats originally supported the bill in committee, but several were upset Wednesday with changes that were made without their approval. That opened the door to criticism of the St. George movement as a whole. Senator Dan Claitor explained what his bill would do, and Senator Karen Carter Peterson, from New Orleans, used language that some will find offensive. She said the entire process has “racial implications.”

“If it’s the City of St. George’s tomato, they’re going to pay for their tomato. If it’s the City of Baton Rouge, they have to assume theirs, and there’s gonna’ be a lot of things that have to be worked out,” Claitor said.

“I didn’t get sent here to sit at my desk and watch injustices and unfairness happen. It’ll be a (expletive) shame if this bill passes,” Peterson said.

The bill did indeed pass the Senate by a vote of 24 to 11.

Again, this transition bill would only take effect if voters approve St. George. The May 15 debate was a preview of the battles over money that lie ahead if that happens.

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