Saint George 052219

State Sens Bodi White, R-Central, and Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, prepare their testimony Wednesday, May 22, 2019, on creating a transition framework should St. George voters choose to incorporate a new city.

Wow! I’ve been accused of a lot of things in my 49-year career as an attorney. However, this is the first time that I’ve had my professional conduct described as “sad,” “pathetic,” “historically short-sided [sic],” and/or “outright dumb.” The only positive counter balance to those accusations would be the fact that I was joined in them with a group which included the governor, the mayor-president and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce.

These attacks and insults came about because the governor correctly vetoed Senate Bill 229, also known as the transition bill for the proposed city of St. George which was considered and passed in the Legislature four months before there has even been an election to decide if the people want to become a separate city. Let me set the record straight.

If the proponents of forming the City of St. George are compelled to blame or accuse anyone who caused the veto of SB 229 as outright dumb and/or historically short-sighted, they need to look no further than Sen. Dan Claitor and Sen. Bodi White, two of their self-professed ardent supporters and sponsors of the bill. SB 229 came out of the Senate committee with agreement by both sides on its terms which included both sides paying their fair share for historical debt. If it was not changed, it would have gone forward, sailed through the Senate and the House and been quickly approved and signed into law.

But no, said senators Claitor and White. St. George needs to get more out of this. Greed raised its ugly head. St. George needs to avoid paying its share of bond debts on the safety complex (formerly the Woman’s Hospital) and it doesn’t want to pay for any of the retirement benefits owed to current or previous public employees unless they physically and actually provided a service within the geographic area of St. George. These two amendments, which were added at the last minute on the Senate floor, would have caused the parish to default on the bond debt for the safety complex and made an impossible requirement for the retirement management to calculate what that meant and who was affected in the last 30 to 40 years. These two amendments are the precise reason that SB 229 did not get the approval of the governor. The prematurity of the bill, standing alone, and although correctly referred to in the governor’s veto message and the mayor-president’s public statement, would not have merited a veto.

So, if it was dumb, sad and pathetic to veto SB 229, it is senators Claitor and Senator White who deserve those appellations and distinctions.

Mary Olive Pierson

attorney

Baton Rouge