City Council revises domicile law - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

City Council revises domicile law

Police and fire union officials address the City Council over the domicile law. Police and fire union officials address the City Council over the domicile law.

New Orleans, La. — New city government hires in New Orleans will get a little more leeway under changes approved for the city's domicile law. On the flip side, some of the language that applies to current municipal workers has been strengthened.

The question of whether city employees should be required to live in Orleans Parish has been a source of controversy for years.  After Hurricane Katrina swamped the city, the City Council suspended the law requiring municipal employees to reside in New Orleans in order to help the city recruit workers.

The law was reinstated on January 1, 2013, but Council President Stacy Head said its language needed to be softened. So Head proposed revisions, including language which gives anyone hired after the January 1, 2013 180 days to move into the city, something that was not the case previously.

Part-time workers would not be covered by the domicile rule, and there could be exemptions granted for employee hardship cases.

Despite the changes, groups representing New Orleans police officers and firefighters argue that the domicile law is a hindrance which needs to be repealed.

"Having a domicile ordinance is ridiculous and we don't need it," said Raymond Burkart III, attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police.

Burkart said the requirement hurts NOPD recruiting efforts.  "Our manpower issue, it is absolutely critical that we have the ability to not just hire more officers, but to retain the officers that we have," Burkart stated.

The head of the firefighters union also spoke against the law during Thursday's council meeting.  

"When those guys and ladies are climbing up that ladder, when someone is laying down having a heart attack, when we respond to a medical roll where someone is shot, those people don't say, 'Wait, where do you live, where are you domiciled?'" said Nick Felton, president of the New Orleans Firefighters Association.

"If the city sells itself then you don't need a domicile ordinance, because people want to live here, you don't need one, they're coming.  Instead what we're choosing to do is imprison people," Burkart told the council.

His remark riled a member of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration.  "I consider it an insult to characterize living in New Orleans as imprisonment," Eric Granderson responded.

I n the end, the council approved the revised domicile law. "It adds some exceptions for people who are hired by Orleans Parish, by the courts, by the libraries, by the Sewerage and Water Board.  It's very broad, 180 days to establish their domicile in the city of New Orleans," said Head.

Employees who were on the city's payroll before December 31, 2012 remain grandfathered in, regardless of where they reside.

Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell got the council to add language to the ordinance which says workers who currently live in the city cannot move to another parish and keep their jobs.

"You can't move outside, you gotta' stay inside," Hedge-Morrell said.

"If you move outside the parish, you will be fired," added Head.

The revised ordinance also has a provision that says that newly hired police, fire and EMS workers who fail to move into the city within 180 days would have to reimburse City Hall for their training.|

"We spend a lot of money training our police officers, our firefighters, and when we spend that money and when we get people this great education, we don't want them to take it and run to another place," Head said.

"We think that's ridiculous," said Burkart.

The majority of the council rejected an amendment proposed by Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell.  It would have barred current workers who reside out of the city from moving from their current address, unless they move to New Orleans.

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