One way to save money: Louisiana Senate eyes cutting thousands spent by agency at fancy New Orleans hotels _lowres

The Hotel Monteleone (Advocate file photo)

State senators are trying to trim the costs of a legislative agency that spends thousands of dollars each year on meetings at a swanky New Orleans hotel.

The Advocate reported last year that the Louisiana State Law Institute had spent more than $500,000 during the past three years to hold meetings at The Monteleone Hotel in the New Orleans French Quarter.

The Law Institute studies legal issues for the Legislature.

An updated financial tally of expenses shows that seven of the institute’s meetings held there in the past nine months have cost nearly $175,000.

Port Allen Republican Sen. Rick Ward wants two-thirds of institute meetings to be held in Baton Rouge, where he says free State Capitol meeting space likely could be provided. The agency’s offices are housed in the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center on the Baton Rouge campus.

“We are in such a bad financial situation right now that it’s absolutely imperative we save every penny we can,” Ward said.

A Senate judiciary committee advanced Ward’s Senate Bill 395 on Tuesday to the full Senate. It would require that all of the group’s meetings be held at a public building available without charge. For the two-thirds that would be required to be held in Baton Rouge, preference would be given to the State Capitol.

William Crawford, institute director, disagreed with the savings projections.

He previously told The Advocate that the council’s more than 100 members from across the state preferred to meet in New Orleans if they had to take off work to fulfill their duties.

On Tuesday, he told legislators that the Monteleone — a historic hotel with nightly room rates advertised online ranging from $250 to more than $450 — provides special rates for the Law Institute council. And he said the institute spends no more than $157 per day for a hotel, no matter where the meeting is located.

“I don’t believe we would save any money by meeting in Baton Rouge. We would lose our relationship with the Monteleone. They cut all of our rates,” Crawford said.

He suggested participation in council meetings could drop off if they were moved from New Orleans, and he said meeting rooms at the Capitol weren’t configured well for the group.

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