BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A bill outlining the transition process for the proposed city of St. George should voters approve a split from Baton Rouge has been vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, Friday, June 21.
Edwards explained his decision Friday in a statement. He says last minute amendments to the proposal would have limited St. George’s “responsibility” for liabilities and other bonded indebtedness for services benefiting residents who would live in the proposed city. That includes funds benefiting the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters.
Read the full statement by clicking the link here.
Just minutes after the Edwards statement was made public, the office of East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome released a statement praising the governor for his decision. You can read the full statement below:
"I’m pleased with the decision by the Governor to veto Senate Bill 229 due to the adverse effects on the entire Parish of East Baton Rouge. The amendments made on the Senate floor would have allowed the proposed City of St. George to simply walk away from debt and pension obligations for services that benefit all citizens.
Despite an agreement in a Senate Committee with the bill’s authors, Senator Dan Claitor and Senator Bodi White, the agreement was altered on the Senate floor without consultation with my office or the City-Parish Employees’ Retirement System general counsel. Serious concerns about the effects of the floor amendments would have been communicated to both Senators.
The bill would have forced EBR and the proposed City of St. George into unnecessary and expensive litigation to interpret the floor amendment provisions that were added without any notice or consultation. The fact remains that this transition legislation is not needed because current law provides that the Governor shall appoint all officers of a newly incorporated municipality until the next general election.
As demonstrated by our cooperation and negotiation during the legislative process, my office stands at the ready to negotiate a transition with the City of St. George should the voters approve of the new municipality on October 12. I commend the Governor for listening to the concerns of all of the citizens in East Baton Rouge Parish."
St. George supporters said Saturday that they are furious and blasted Gov. Edwards and other officials for their decision to block the bill.
“It’s easier for them apparently to spend their time and energy opposing St. George than doing their job. We’ve always said we’re going to pay the undaunted liability and the legacy cost. We’ve just asked to pay our share," said Andrew Murrell, an attorney assuming the role of spokesman for the movement supporting the incorporation of St. George. “The reality is we’ve always budgeted for those legacy cost. If you look in our budget, you’ll see over the course of 30 years we budgeted 120 million dollars for legacy cost.”
WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW TO SEE ST. GEORGE SUPPORTERS REACT:
M.E. Cormier, Executive Director for Better Baton Rouge, says supporters of the bill are trying to dodge their responsibilities.
“What St. George wanted to do is make up special rules for their transitions that would only apply to them if they passed their measure of the ballot in October. St. George was trying to get out of paying their share of taxes. If that bill had passed, it would have caused the City Parish to default on the bonds that were used to pay for and build up the St. George Area."
Murrell says supporters of St. George will likely introduce another transition bill after the election.