Monday, April 22, 2024

Edwards: Bond Commission will move past abortion dispute, approve New Orleans power plant project

by BIZ Magazine

By Greg LaRose, Louisiana Illuminator

NEW ORLEANS – Gov. John Bel Edwards said he expects the Louisiana Bond Commission to work through an impasse that’s holding up nearly $40 million in financing for a critical infrastructure project here. 

At issue is the city’s decision not to enforce the state’s abortion law, and Attorney General Jeff Landry and other conservative members of the commission decision to withhold support for any New Orleans project because of its leaders’ stance.

Edwards was in New Orleans at the Sewerage and Water Board plant Tuesday for a tour with Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. They held a hurricane preparedness press conference with Mayor LaToya Cantrell just yards away from where a $74 million electrical substation is planned to replace the Sewerage and Water Board’s outdated steam-powered turbines.

Last month and again this month, the Bond Commission has deferred approval of $39 million in financing for the substation, although it approved a separate $32 million line of credit for the same project in July. Landry, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and three other Republican House members on the commission prevailed in a 7-6 vote last week on the second phase of the substation, which won’t receive any actual money until next year at the earliest.

“It is a misguided effort from the beginning to ever use the Bond Commission and any of the work that it does to send a political message to anyone for any reason,” Edwards said in response to a question from the Illuminator. The financing should move forward because the legislature has given its backing to the project, he added.

The New Orleans City Council approved a resolution last month that declared its opposition to enforcing the state’s abortion ban, which only allows the procedure when the life of someone pregnant is at risk or when a pregnancy is no longer viable. Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams has said the abortion law would not be a priority for his office, which would continue to focus on violent crime.

New Orleans police officers have been directed to investigate possible abortion law violations and write reports on them, but they will not make arrests or issue any summonses, according to city records The Times-Picayune obtained.

Asked whether, as a lawyer, he feels the city’s position is defensible, Edwards said “there is no non-enforcement taking place.”

Four members of the Louisiana Senate on the Bond Commission voted against deferral for the Sewerage and Water Board financing along with Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne and Mattew Block, Edwards’ executive counsel.

Mayorkas was asked for his take on the delayed financing.

“Emergency management is not a partisan issue,” he said. “It speaks to the health and well being for the residents of the city and the state.”

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