The weeks before the Legislature convenes for its annual regular session in Baton Rouge are usually a time for New Orleans officials to go over their wish list of changes.
But with Mayor Mitch Landrieu leaving office in two months and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell keeping a low profile as she works through her transition, New Orleans is going into this year's session, which starts March 12, with a modest set of requests.
The Landrieu administration, which will be out of office a month before the legislative session wraps up in June, examined its priorities this year and found few that could be taken care of in the time the mayor has left in office.
So the city’s lobbyists reached out to Cantrell’s transition team to ask if there was anything they wanted the city to push for at the Capitol. But Mason Harrison, the transition’s communications director, said there were no requests from the mayor-elect.
“At this point, there is no legislative agenda from the transition,” Harrison said.
For the most part, then, the city is looking at playing defense this year.
The top item New Orleans’ lobbyists are watching is an effort to create a statewide system for regulating ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. The key concern for city officials is that those regulations could undercut the rules put in place by the City Council in April 2015.
Officials said they will fight any attempt to let ride-hailing services operate in the city with fewer restrictions on things like the vehicles' age or insurance requirements.
New Orleans officials also are bracing for another attempt to punish the city for its policies toward immigrants in the country illegally. Some state lawmakers have taken aim at the city in recent years, claiming it is a “sanctuary city” that flouts federal immigration law. They are threatening to cut state funding unless the city changes policies that ban New Orleans police officers from asking crime witnesses and victims about their immigration status.
Similar attacks and threats had been voiced by officials in President Donald Trump’s administration until last year, when the U.S. Department of Justice declared that the city was complying with federal laws.
Still, local officials said they are concerned another bill could be coming at the state level, though none has been filed yet.
That’s not to say there’s nothing on the city's wish list.
The city is hoping to use a proposal by Harrah’s New Orleans Casino to build a new 24-story hotel to finally change the way the state divvies up the money it receives from the casino.
The city is supposed to get up to $3.6 million a year of that money, with the state keeping the remaining, far larger share. But the money for the city now has to be appropriated specifically each year, meaning the city has had to wage an annual fight — not always successful — for the money it is owed.
The changes sought by the city would funnel the $3.6 million — which is intended to offset the city’s public-safety costs for hosting the casino — directly to the city each year, without any involvement by state lawmakers.
New Orleans also is looking to get the state to pony up for a pair of infrastructure projects: the last $5 million needed for a roadway near Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport’s new terminal and $4 million for a substation that would allow the Sewerage & Water Board’s Carrollton plant to tie in to Entergy’s power grid more securely.