The gridlocked legislative session that ended last week may have had few winners, but officials in New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration are claiming victory for blocking a number of measures that would have allowed the state to override local decision-makers.
Despite the “budget disaster,” a reference to lawmakers’ failure to pass a budget before the session ended, it was a “good session for us generally,” Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said.
The city started the session hoping to achieve some relatively modest goals of its own but also working to kill a number of bills on topics from monuments to immigration policy. While the city had a mixed record on getting its own bills passed, it managed to stave off the measures that most concerned the administration.
A measure that would have punished local jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities made it out of the House but died in the Senate.
Bills that would have set up roadblocks to efforts to take down Confederate monuments, such as the four recently removed in New Orleans, passed the House but were shot down by a Senate committee with a large contingent of Democratic lawmakers, including several from the New Orleans area.
A measure sought by the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, which would have established statewide regulations and overridden the rules New Orleans passed two years ago, also failed to pass a Senate committee.
A bill by Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, that would have blocked a proposed city ordinance requiring housing developers to include affordable housing in their plans made it through the Senate but was killed by a House committee.
As far as New Orleans is concerned, the session of the state Legislature starting Monday is …
A bill by Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, that would have called for a statewide vote on banning traffic tickets generated by cameras didn’t even make it to the House floor. Such cameras pump millions of dollars into the city's coffers each year.
Besides those defensive victories, the Landrieu administration did score some wins on the more positive side of the table, though several of its major priorities didn’t get off the ground.
A measure by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, to direct a greater portion of the taxes collected from short-term rentals to the city, rather than to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and other entities that now receive that money from hotels, was approved. The hospitality industry did not object to that change.
That nearly 4 percent tax will go toward a “New Orleans Quality of Life Fund” dedicated to funding code enforcement efforts involving short-term rentals. However, it is unclear how much money will be brought in for the fund because the city’s short-term rental law went into effect only this year.
A measure by Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, R-New Orleans, would have redirected some of the same taxes from traditional hotels to street repairs. That bill, which was opposed by the hospitality industry and did not have the backing of the Landrieu administration, never made it out of committee.
The city also succeeded in getting bills passed that will allow the Sewerage & Water Board to sell its services, particularly sewer treatment, to neighboring parishes and allow the Regional Transit Authority to enter into public-private partnerships. That provision is expected to come into play for building a new Canal Street ferry terminal.
However, a series of bills sought by the administration didn’t make it far in the legislative process.
For the second year in a row, the city failed to get permission to allow civilians to investigate minor traffic crashes, something the Landrieu administration has argued would free New Orleans police officers to handle more pressing duties.
A measure to exempt new Sewerage & Water Board employees from the civil service system was shelved after Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, said concerns and questions had been raised by existing employees. “Until those issues could be resolved to my satisfaction, I didn’t want to move forward with the bill,” Morrell said.
The administration also did not get changes it sought that would have given the City Council more direct control over the Industrial Development Board’s decisions.
A long-shot measure by Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, to allow the city to make nonprofit organizations pay taxes on some properties that aren’t used for charitable purposes got out of committee but not the full House.
The city also pushed for Gov. John Bel Edwards’ criminal justice reform package, which passed.