Lawmakers pass improvement project for Morial Convention Center

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - As the legislative session ends Mayor Mitch Landrieu got some but not all of what he wanted to offset some huge budget problems facing the city. The city will also get the chance to make some huge upgrades to hopefully lure big conventions to town.

It's being hailed a huge economic win for the City of New Orleans. Lawmakers passed a bill that will allow the Morial Convention Center to fund improvements to Convention Center Boulevard and the area around the building. State Rep. Walt Leger says, "We expect to see a boom at the riverfront of the City of New Orleans. A major hotel that will anchor our convention center for the first time."

The goal is to lure in more big name conventions. Governor Jindal still has to give his approval, which he is expected to do.

The governor was also expected Monday to sign a bill that would kill a lawsuit filed against 97 oil and gas companies. The Southeast Louisiana levee board filed the suit claiming the oil and gas companies destroyed coast and wetlands through their drilling. Jindal delayed signing the bill to allow the attorney general to review the measure. "There are new concerns that have come up as to if it could impact the BP oil spill claims that local governments and the state of Louisiana have pending," said Leger.

One measure that did not pass this legislative session, a proposal to increase the occupancy tax rate that hotels and motels already pay. Mayor Landrieu was in favor of the measure but it was opposed by many tourism leaders. If approved the measure would've been put on a ballot for residents. State Rep. Austin Badon says, "We just can't understand why they didn't give the people of Orleans Parish the opportunity to vote on it."

While voters won't be allowed to have a say in the hotel, motel tax debate, they may consider a property tax millage increase. Lawmakers passed House Bill 111 which aims to raise money for fire and police protection in Orleans Parish through a millage increase. If it passes on the statewide ballot, the city council will decide whether to put it before the city's registered voters for a separate vote. With House Bill 111, that portion of your tax bill can increase as much as 10 mills, generating an extra $28 million a year for police and fire protection.

A couple other controversial bills that passed this legislative session include the limitations put on abortion providers, requiring them to have admitting privileges at hospitals near abortion clinics and a bill that includes fines for people who litter with their cigarette butts.

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