A legislative agency would be required to hold its meetings in public buildings, under a bill headed to the governor that aims to cut spending on swanky hotel gatherings.

The Louisiana State Law Institute, which studies complex legal issues for the Legislature, holds meetings of its decision-making council at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans, a historic upscale hotel in the French Quarter.

Travel, lodging, food and other expenses for seven meetings since July have cost the state nearly $175,000, according to a financial analysis done for lawmakers. Similar spending has been reported annually.

Senate Bill 395 by Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, calls for the meetings to be held in public buildings “available without charge or at a reduced cost,” starting Jan. 1.

A majority of the meetings also would have to be held in Baton Rouge. Preference is given to gatherings on the LSU campus, where the law institute is domiciled, unless other public buildings in the city are available at a lower cost.

During committee debate on the proposal, the director of the law institute disagreed with legislative claims that significant savings could be gained by moving from the Monteleone and suggested participation in council meetings could drop off if moved from New Orleans.

The Senate voted 35-0 for the final version of the bill, and the House sent it to the governor with a 96-2 vote Sunday.

The law institute council has more than 100 members, including lawyers, judges and some lawmakers.