Legislation expanding the authority of the Ernest N. Morial-New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority cleared the Louisiana Senate on Monday.
Approval on a 36-1 vote came as a Baton Rouge senator warned that the changes allow potential state funding for construction of lodging and residential facilities as part of the development.
“If I were a hotel around the corner, I’d be a little miffed,” said state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge. “It’s clearly for the development of privately owned hotels and other infrastructure.”
State Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, said the legislation does not talk about using state capital construction dollars. He said the provision allows construction of “a hotel and other amenities to attract people to the south” away from the French Quarter.
Claitor tried and failed to get language removed dealing with hotels and other lodging.
State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, got the Senate to insert a provision under which the “full, faith and credit of the state” could not be used to support a private entity.
House Bill 516 now returns to the House for concurrence in the Senate changes.
The legislation would allow the authority to use nontraditional tax-free bonds to benefit any properties being developed by a private entity. It also authorizes a Phase V expansion allowing a joint venture between the authority and a private entity for a tourism development plan to enhance the convention center, including development of a riverfront festival park; an executive conference center to be integrated as part of a new, privately developed hotel; and renovation, restoration, construction or demolition of the New Orleans World Trade Center.