Legislation Brief For 5-28
The expropriation and purchase of land for a new LSU hospital in New Orleans would be stalled until lawmakers review and approve financial plans for the hospital, under a bill approved yesterday by the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Representative Rickey Nowlin, of Natchitoches, said he wasn't trying to slow plans for the new medical teaching hospital run by LSU, to replace the one flooded by Hurricane Katrina four years ago.

But he said lawmakers should have more clarity from LSU about the plans before land is expropriated, including the costs to the state and the impact on local landowners and historic property slated to be expropriated.

Nowlin's bill would block the state from buying or expropriating land for the hospital until a "financing proposal" is approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. The Health and Welfare Committee agreed without objection to send the measure to the full House for debate. ************************************************************************************ About 200 people marched past the Louisiana Governor's Mansion and to the Capitol yesterday to protest Governor Bobby Jindal's rejection of 98 million dollars in federal stimulus dollars that would expand unemployment benefits.

The group calling itself the Concerned Citizens Coalition - organized by local nonprofit organizations, the president of the Louisiana chapter of the NAACP and outside activists - chanted "Enough is Enough" on the Capitol steps.

Members of the coalition asked lawmakers to override Jindal's stance on the stimulus dollars and to reject his proposals to cut health care and education spending next year to cope with a budget shortfall.

The stimulus issue has created a partisan divide at the Capitol, with Democrats saying the money is needed for unemployed workers and Republicans, including Jindal, saying acceptance of the money eventually would force higher unemployment taxes on businesses.

A bill to override Jindal on the stimulus awaits debate in the Senate. Jindal has said he'll veto the measure if it passes. ************************************************************************************ A House dispute over federal stimulus money entered its second week, triggering a procedural fight that was eventually quelled by peaker Jim Tucker.

Tucker started the argument when he tried to nullify an amendment from last week that would allow Louisiana to accept 98 million dollars in stimulus funds that Gov. Bobby Jindal has rejected.

Representative Cedric Richmond, of New Orleans, challenged the relevance of Tucker's amendment, asking House Speaker Pro Tem Karen Carter Peterson for a ruling on whether the amendment could be added to the unemployment compensation bill up for floor debate.

Peterson, also of New Orleans, ruled against Tucker after conferring with Alfred "Butch" Speer, the House clerk and staff legal expert. Her ruling sparked a Republican effort to override her, but Tucker took the microphone to argue against that move.

Tucker asked lawmakers to allow Peterson's ruling to stand, saying an override would be divisive and harmful to decorum.

The House agreed, voting 57-40 to sustain Peterson's ruling. ************************************************************************************ A bid to shield from public view many of the records tied to internal affairs investigations of police officers was rejected yesterday by the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The bill by Representative Mack "Bodi" White, of Denham Springs, would exempt from open records laws the documents related to those investigations unless the investigation caused the officer to be fired, suspended for at least 45 days or criminally prosecuted.

White said the measure would do away with unreasonable public records requests that he said cost police departments and taxpayers thousands of dollars in court costs.

Opponents argued the documents should be hidden and the bill would destroy trust between the community and their local law enforcement agencies.

The committee voted 13-5 against advancing the bill. *********************************************************************************** In other legislative action:

-A proposal to bar legislators, statewide elected officials and members of the Public Service Commission from having their pay raised during their terms in office received unanimous Senate backing. The constitutional change by Senator Joe McPherson, of Woodworth, would require a two-thirds vote of the House and approval of voters in 2010 to be enacted.

-Governor Bobby Jindal's push to create a government streamlining panel, charged with looking at ways to shrink bureaucracy to save money, received approval from the Senate in a 37-0 vote. The bill by Senator Jack Donahue, of Mandeville, heads next to the House for debate. The commission would make recommendations, and lawmakers would then decide which ones to enact.