Included in the bill are three capital outlay projects for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette: $18 million for the Madison Hall renovations; $13.8 million for planning and construction of an engineering classroom building; and $13,350,000 for planning and construction of a health care education and training facility.
Roundup: Legal marijuana delayed again; sales tax collection passes Senate; early voting for president expanded
Already punted twice, floor debate on marijuana legalization was rescheduled for Tuesday. Also postponed was a bill to allow industrial polluters to audit themselves.
Lafayette area reps are moving bills waiving taxes on re-opened orphaned wells and creating new reporting requirements for abortions.
The bill had already been approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment. The Governmental Affairs Committee held a separate hearing to consider its effect on Louisiana’s Public Records Law.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has vowed to veto any bill removing the training requirement, but both the House and Senate versions passed by more than a two-thirds vote.
Louisiana Legislature gives another chance to bill that would allow industrial facilities to self audit their pollution
Environmental groups say the bill will create loopholes that keep health risks hidden from people who live near industry.
The gist: In an election year breakthrough, nearly 20 Lafayette Parish projects have survived into the final days of the state legislative session. Pending a signature from the governor, the area is set to pull more than $40 million in priority funding for some long-suffering projects, as well as $150 million in transportation dollars for I-49 South.
“It’s a small victory, but it’s not the end of the process,” state Rep. Jean-Paul Coussan tells me. Coussan credits an areawide push to sell Acadiana projects to key figures like Gov. John Bel Edwards and state Sen. JP Morrell, the chair of the Senate’s Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee. Both Morrell and Edwards visited priority projects — Moncus Park and the airport, respectively — in the last year. Big budget capacity greased the skids as the political stars aligned.
Making it rain across South Louisiana. Here’s a list of some of the Priority 1 and 2 dollars (more on that in a minute) earmarked for Acadiana in HB2, the state’s infrastructure budget bill.
- Lafayette Airport – $10 million (P1)
- Moncus Park – $2 million (P2)
- Lafayette Parish Courthouse – $3 million (P1)
- Opportunity Machine Renovation – $5.6 million (P2)
- Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway – $4 million (P2)
- Apollo Road Extension – $5.5 million (P2)
- University Avenue Corridor – $3 million (P2)
- Holy Rosary Institute – $500,000 (P2)
Top priority dollars aren’t the entire outlay. HB2 includes more projects than the state can actually fund. Priority 1 dollars are typically paid outright. Priority 2 is for new projects paid by bonds. Other dollars are parked in Priority 5, which is essentially a queue for future allocations.
I-49 South got $150 million in BP oil spill money in a bonanza of riders to a transportation bill that ballooned the item to $700 million in total allocations, statewide. The I-49 money is cash for “shovel-ready” components of the project, not the Lafayette Connector, which alone is expected to cost half a billion dollars or more and will likely need federal funding to move forward.
This marks something of a breakthrough for the Acadiana delegation. Legislators have grumbled for several years that the region has been left out in the cold on state allocations. Some of the items in HB2 are outlays previously killed by Edwards, like funding for Moncus Park and Apollo Road. Insiders say the starve-out was a direct result of clashes between Acadiana’s largely Republican delegation and a Democratic governor.
“You gotta commend the legislative delegation,” LEDA CEO Gregg Gothreaux tells me of the haul. “It’s impressive.”
What to watch for: Whether HB2 makes it to the end of session unchanged. And then, whether Edwards vetoes any of the projects, as he has in the past. Edwards has a lot of incentive to pass these projects through in an election year. Meanwhile, last year’s sales tax compromise gives the governor little reason to be punitive, some state political insiders tell me. There’s optimism that much of the outlay will make it.
The school will serve as an educational institution for the students, as well as hands-on learning experiences for collegians and faculty to experiment with new teaching techniques.