Levee board consolidation bill passes out of committee
while Senators maintain its death
BATON ROUGE — A bill to consolidate several southeast Louisiana levee boards into a single state-controlled agency passed out of a Senate committee Wednesday even as two lawmakers on the panel warned that the legislation is ultimately doomed in its current form.
Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Arabi, cleared the Senate Transporation, Highways and Public Works without objection and now heads to the full Senate. Similar legislation was killed in the House during a November special session and faces an uphill battle again without compromises.
The bill is one of the top priorities of Gov. Kathleen Blanco for the special session that began Monday and runs through Feb. 17.
“The bill is not going to pass in its current fashion,” Sen. Robert Adley, D-Benton, said during the hearing, noting local opposition from some parishes and regions included in the consolidation. “There’s just no way.”
Sen. Heulette “Clo” Fontenot went further, turning from the room’s witness table and telling the crowd they were being used by the Blanco administration as political pawns. Fontenot said Blanco, who testified in support of the bill before the committee, knows it cannot get enough votes to pass the Senate.
“You’re being taken for a ride,” said Fontenot, R-Livingston, who represents an area where local flood control officials oppose the measure.
The legislation has been strongly opposed by some West Bank elected officials, who say their constituents are in a different flood basin and are better served by a separate board.
Supporters of the bill say a single agency is needed to better coordinate flood and storm protection that failed so disastrously during Hurricane Katrina. They say a single professional board to replace political appointees will increase confidence from the federal government and from local residents deciding whether to return and rebuild.