Less than two weeks before the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ida and in the midst of what is predicted to be an above-normal storm season, the Louisiana Bond Commission blocked money to replacethe aging infrastructure that powers New Orleans’s drinking water, drainage and sewage systems.The commission’s 7-6 vote, led by Attorney General Jeff Landry, to block the project is in response to New Orleans city leaders’ refusal to enforce the new statewide abortion ban, although no abortions are happening in the city or state. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Greg Larose explains the consequences of injecting abortion politics into the state bond commission.
Sen. Jimmy Harris, D-New Orleans, another legislator sitting on the bond commission, stressed the urgency of upgrading the Sewerage and Water Board’s power supply. He mentioned that he had just received an emergency text message during the meeting that said street flooding was expected from forecasted heavy rain. “They’re expecting it to flood,” Harris said about the text message, “so you can now legally park on the neutral ground because of the rains. That’s actually happening in the city right now. That’s what we’re dealing with. That’s what this particular project is attempting to help us, to where we don’t have to drown.”
As the Daily Advertiser’s Greg Hilburn reports, these actions are contrary to the purpose of the bond commission.
“Rather than holding up money for projects there are other means for enforcement,” [Paul] Rainwater said. “You’re putting a lot of people at risk by holding up the project.” … Republican Treasurer John Schroder, who chairs the Bond Commission, has said he objects to the politicizing of the committee, but Schroder didn’t vote Thursday. “We’re playing politics with this and I don’t like it,” Schroder said during the last meeting. “I am trying not to be cute about this. This is a bond commission. We deal with the finances of the state, and as long as you check the boxes, then those things get approved.”
Keeping taxable properties on the books
Parish tax assessors have been failing to list commercial property with pending tax exemptions on their tax rolls and treating properties as exempt before their exemptions were finalized, according to advocates with Together Louisiana. The issue caused the Louisiana Tax Commission to meet on Wednesday to determine how tax assessors should treat large commercial property with pending tax exemptions. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports on how officials will solve a problem that is preventing local governments from collecting millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Aguillard and Bagert settled on a compromise that would require assessors to value and list a property as taxable if its exemption is still pending on the day a parish opens its tax rolls, also known as the day of open book. Most parishes open their annual property tax rolls in mid-August or September and file final valuations with the Tax Commission by Nov. 15. The Tax Commission will consider adopting the proposed rule changes at its next meeting, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 22.
An uneven concern for solar
Earlier this week, the St. James Parish Council approved a moratorium on new solar panel farms. The pause on new construction goes against a push by utility companies and environmentalists to expand renewable energy, especially in rural areas of the state, in order to respond to price swings for fossil fuels and to combat the deadly effects of climate change. The Advocate’s David. J. Mitchell reports that the council members’ concerns about the new solar farms follow their approval of new industrial plants that have spewed toxic pollutants into the parish’s Black communities for decades.
[Environmental groups] have questioned why the parish hadn’t taken similar concern and time with large petrochemical projects proposed primarily in the parish’s upriver areas, where St. James’ Black population is most concentrated. Some called for a moratorium on future petrochemical facilities, a plea that has failed to gain support in the past. “What about us,” asked Beverly Alexander, a parish resident and community activist who has sued over past plant proposals. “What about y’all’s self? Don’t y’all think y’all are going to be poisoned also?”
Discrimination against students with disabilities
Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed two proposals in the 2022 legislative session that aimed to send state money to private schools, including a proposal that purported to give more choice to students with exceptionalities. Now, the Archdiocese of New Orleans and affiliated Catholic schools are accused of excluding students with exceptionalities from their rolls. While private schools are not allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities in their application processes, they also are not required to provide the educational accommodations that public schools must provide to their students. WWL’s David Hammer reports in Nola.com:
The new lawsuit expands on one Edmunds filed against Mount Carmel Academy in 2020. It alleged a girl with strong grades was discouraged from even applying to the all-girls high school after school leaders learned she had cerebral palsy, used a wheelchair and would need an aide if she attended the school. Mount Carmel President Sister Camille Anne Campbell left a voicemail for the girl’s mother, a Mount Carmel alumna. “We don’t have the accommodations and I do think our academic program would be substantially difficult for her,” Campbell said in the recorded message.
Number of the Day
$423 – Annual average savings a new homeowner in Louisiana could realize on their utility bills thanks to grants from the Inflation Reduction Act for states and local governments to upgrade their building energy codes (Source: The White House)