A bid to allow all voters in East Baton Rouge Parish to decide whether St. George becomes a city – not just those in neighborhoods that make up St. George – was shelved Thursday in a Senate committee.

The vote was 4-3.

The measure, Senate Bill 63, is sponsored by Senate Local and Municipal Affairs Committee Chairwoman Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge.

The bill was heard in her committee.

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, who opposes the St. George effort and whose office helped craft the legislation, urged the panel to approve it.

"I believe everyone in the parish should be allowed to vote on an issue that affects everyone in their community," Broome said.

Broome said that, if St. George becomes the fifth city in the parish, it would have a devastating impact on parish finances.

The mayor cited a study requested by City Hall, and released on Wednesday, that says the city-parish would lose $48.3 million if St. George becomes reality, and that the budgets of some agencies would face cuts of 45 percent.

"Us versus them is not what Baton Rouge is about and what America is all about," said Broome, a former state senator herself.

Opponents said Colomb's bill amounts to an 11th hour bid to redraw the requirements after backers rounded up enough signatures on petitions to get the proposal on the Oct. 12 ballot.

"This is an attempt by the powers that be to change the rules at the end of the game," said Norman Browning, chairman of the St. George incorporation effort.

He said Colomb's proposal was an effort to kill the drive.

The issue is set for a vote after petitions with 14,585 valid signatures were submitted in October, more than the 12,951 needed.

One of the early driving forces behind the push was an effort to set up a new school district amid complaints about the quality of public schools in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Since then supporters have argued that a smaller city – around 80,000 residents – could provide more efficient services and be more responsive to taxpayers.

Under current rules, only voters in the unincorporated part of southeast East Baton Rouge Parish would cast ballots on the issue, which critics of Colomb's bill noted has been the law for decades.

"The bill would allow other people to say we will not allow you to incorporate," said Drew Murrell, an attorney in the effort and spokesman for St. George.

Murrell said that, if the bill becomes law, it would mark the first time in state history that voters others than those in the unincorporated area cast ballots on a drive to become a city.

Mary Olive Pierson, a veteran Baton Rouge attorney and opponent of the St. George effort, appeared alongside the mayor and said a lawsuit is possible if the vote is limited to residents of St. George only.

Others said that, if Colomb's bill becomes law, St. George backers would challenge it in court.

"Why are we doing this if we are going to end up in court anyway?" asked Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie and a member of the committee.

The successful petition by St. George backers marked their second try.

The first one narrowly missed the target for required signatures.

Colomb, in closing comments before the vote, said a parish-wide vote makes sense.

"All of the people of the parish helped to make that part of the parish better," she said of St. George.

Broome disputed comments that the legislation represents a last-minute bid to change the rules.

The mayor said it makes sense to "get things right at any time."

The motion was to shelve the bill.

Voting to defer Colomb's bill (4): state Sens. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, Jack Donahue, R-Metairie and John Smith, R-Leesville.

Voting against sidelining SB63 (3): Chairman Colomb, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks and Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans.

The same committee later approved legislation – Senate Bill 229 – that would set up a transition district if St. George becomes a city.

It passed 4-3 and is sure to spark controversy on the Senate floor.

The district, which would be similar to one used when Central was incorporated, would be employed to transfer services between the city-parish and St. George.

The amended measure would require St. George to assume its share of the parish's outstanding debt and unfunded liabilities – said to be about $100 million.

Browning said after the meeting that officials have budgeted for those expenses if St. George becomes a city.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.