One of the things that should have been on the easier “to-do” list for the 2014 Legislature was a look at the old laws on city boundaries, an issue brought into sharp light in the Baton Rouge area by the St. George petition drive.
At the very least, the Legislature should have set some sort of time limit for drives such as that for the proposed southeastern city that would break away from city-parish government. Those seeking a withdrawal from a parish are operating in large part under laws dating from many years ago; the original Lawrason Act was enacted in 1898.
We are disappointed that lawmakers did not set a reasonable deadline for such drives. After all, and has been seen in Baton Rouge, business owners want to see predictability, and a lingering drive that lasted well over a year generates uncertainty by the boatload.
Fortunately, though, the St. George wait is over. But as we hope lawmakers will observe about this process in next year’s Legislature, there still might be issues with the statutes that can be improved upon.
Now that the petition has been presented to the registrar of voters, Elaine Lamb and her staff must verify the signatures; that will determine if there are the valid signatures of 17,746 residents.
That’s higher than the 16,500 estimated earlier, so that was the number that St. George organizers aimed at. Depending on the boundary lines of the proposed city, which would split some voting precincts, the petition might need 17,746, as Lamb estimates. Opponents of the St. George incorporation movement argue the right number is 17,752.
With 18,200 signatures, it’s quite likely that the petitions will meet the higher number, resulting in an election next year. The debate on these issues might end up in court, but in this case we have some particular sympathy for Lamb’s employees, who are in the midst of a very busy election season, including the Dec. 6 runoffs.
The petition is a lot of work for the registrar’s office and one that is likely to generate some controversy itself, as the neighbor-against-neighbor debate in the St. George area has been intense.
If the St. George issue is settled by the time the Legislature meets again, we hope lawmakers will look at the flawed process. It is a laboratory for these issues, and one that ought to result in some changes to state law governing breakaway districts.