The composition of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority board as well as who appoints board members will change if pending state legislation is approved.

The bill also appears to take some oversight from the Lafayette City-Parish Council, although some say the council didn't have authority over LEDA anyway.

Senate Bill 161 sponsored by Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, an attorney who does contract work for Lafayette city-parish government, addresses phrasing that has not been modernized since the 1980s; updates language to reflect the new, separate city and parish councils; and changes the make-up of the board, LEDA President and CEO Gregg Gothreaux said.

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Gregg Gothreaux, CEO of Lafayete Economic Development Authority, speaks during the 2016 State of the Economy for Acadiana luncheon at the Cajundome Convention Center in Lafayette, La.

LEDA was originally created in the 1970s as a harbor and terminal district. It became LEDA in the 1990s.

The proposed legislation, Gothreaux said, is being amended as it makes its way through the legislature. Currently, as proposed, it eliminates two appointments by the parish president from nominations by the defunct Central Labor Council of Lafayette; eliminates the nomination of a board member by the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, which is now One Acadiana; adds an appointment by the chancellor of South Louisiana Community College and one appointment each by the Louisiana House members and Louisiana Senate members representing districts where most of the population is in Lafayette Parish.

As proposed, the law adds a section that prohibits LEDA from adopting rules, regulations or orders that contradict local, state or federal laws or regulations, except that no action by the Lafayette Parish Council can repeal or overturn a contract or agreement executed by LEDA that was valid and legal when it was executed.

Present law gives the Lafayette Parish Council oversight responsibility for LEDA and, in what appears to be language unchanged since LEDA was a harbor and terminal district board, requires the board to annually report to Lafayette Parish the arrivals and departures of vessels and tonnage along with imports and exports going through the port district. The proposed bill removes both of those clauses.

LEDA's budget goes before the City-Parish Council, but the council doesn't have oversight of the budget.

Most of LEDA's money — it had a nearly $17 million balance at the end of 2017 — comes from a parish-wide property tax set by the state legislature. It was never approved by voters and does not require a vote of the public. The tax is assessed at 1.68 mills now and has been "rolled back" by the LEDA board with concurrence from the council the past two years so that the board collects the same amount of money even when property values rise.

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Lafayette City-Parish Councilman William Theriot, left, speaks to City-Parish Attorney Paul Escott during a meeting Oct. 2, 2018, in Lafayette, La.

Councilman William Theriot questioned the attempt to remove some oversight of LEDA from the council. 

"Because LEDA's millage never comes before the people for a vote," Theriot said, "we need more accountability on the local level and a little more transparency. They're using local tax dollars for buying a downtown bar. Did the people have a say-so in that?"

LEDA recently purchased for $1 million a Jefferson Street building that most recently housed a nightclub. It will become home to the Opportunity Machine, a business incubator program.

Acadiana Business Today: Governor, local leaders announce $150 million investment in Krotz Springs-based refinery that will create 1,500 construction jobs, 30 full-time jobs; LEDA legislation changes board composition, council oversight


Follow Claire Taylor on Twitter, @ClaireTaylorACA