S&WB project remains mired in the fight over abortion-related politics

The Louisiana Bond Commission deferred action on the project for a second month at the urging of A.G. Jeff Landry
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 7:10 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, succeeded in getting the State Bond Commission to again delay action on a Sewerage and Water Board project that New Orleans officials say is critical.

On Thursday (Aug. 18) Landry who is a member of the Bond Commission slammed top elected officials in New Orleans over their public stance against Louisiana’s tough abortion law.

“Just this week this state had to expend dollars taking back control of the Orleans Parish jail. We had to send DOC officers into that facility to retake control of that particular jail because that was the request of the sheriff from there but yet that same sheriff is the one who openly went out there to join the city to defy the laws of this state and that’s the explanation I’d like to hear,” said Landry.

Landry wants the commission’s approval delayed until the city council rescinds a resolution that urged city agencies not to use city funds to enforce the state’s abortion laws which ban most abortions.

“Defer this project until they rescind the resolution, it’s very simple. They could go next month, rescind the resolution, and then we’ll all support it,” said Landry.

Paul Rainwater who previously served in the executive branch of state government is a lobbyist for the city and responded to Landry during the lengthy debate over whether a nearly $40 million line of credit should be approved by the commission.

He said the city has not broken any laws.

“I do know that the city has worked with the police department to come up with a policy on how they would investigate such issues as related to the law that was passed in the state of Louisiana regarding abortion,” said Rainwater. “The council and the mayor and the sheriff made expressions that I think they felt like they had under the First Amendment, the right to make an expression based on what they believe and that’s kind of it.”

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards’ representatives on the commission opposed deferring the vote again along with Sen. Jimmy Harris, who represents New Orleans in the state legislature.

“We’re talking about a project that’s protecting 384,000 people, a plant that would be responsible for keeping the turbines moving, a plant that would also be responsible that we don’t have to have boil water advisories, so people could have fresh drinking water and bathe in safe water,” said Harris.

Matthew Block is the governor’s executive counsel.

‘There’s a certain irony a certain irony that we’re saying we don’t like what they’re saying so we’re not going to do our duty which is exactly the challenge that you all are saying they’re not doing, that they’re not doing their duty because they don’t like what’s being done in Baton Rouge, well, we’re doing the exact same thing.”

Rainwater agreed the project is needed.

“The power station is amazingly important to the city of New Orleans, again not just to the city but all the state assets that exist there sir,” said Rainwater.

FOX 8 asked Mayor Cantrell about the commission again delaying action on the proposal.

“Any resources that are redirected from the city of New Orleans is an impact on our economy, an impact on our ability to ensure that we have proper drainage, and drainage capacity, infrastructure to our power plant is something that we definitely need to have happen and it’s not just impactful to the city of New Orleans but impactful to the state of Louisiana,” said Cantrell.

And City Council President Helena Moreno issued the following statement:

“The Bond Commission cannot impact matters that are not under the commission’s legal authority, so it is concerning that this is what they keep advancing. But I am happy to meet individually with members of the Bond Commission, in particular, the Lt. Gov, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State who hold statewide office so they can understand the gray areas around these new laws detrimentally impacting women who are suffering miscarriages and other terrible complications as reported by media outlets.

Most recently Ms. Nancy Davis bravely told her story to the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate regarding the tragic circumstances of an ultrasound showing that her baby did not have a skull, an unsurvivable condition called acrania. The unbearable news was then followed by confusion over whether the BR hospital could provide an abortion for her unviable pregnancy. The determination was that it would be best for Ms. Davis to make an appointment to have an abortion in Florida or carry to term. The City of New Orleans will not prioritize targeting women and their doctors who are balancing what is best for the patient and gray areas of the law. It is disappointing to see the lack of compassion for women facing these horrific and painful circumstances. The fact that the City of New Orleans is being punished for its careful consideration of new state laws is troubling and inappropriate. The project delayed is a vital flood protection initiative to save lives, property, and businesses in our city.

In my opinion, all that has been accomplished by some members of the Bond Commission is to show that they do not care for the people of New Orleans, nor do they care and have compassion for women who are facing incredibly tragic circumstances.”

Robert Collins, Ph.D., is a Dillard University political analyst who thinks Landry’s public fight with the city over the abortion ban is tied to the upcoming governor’s race.

“Clearly, this is all about the governor’s race, this is the case where the attorney general who is preparing to run for governor next year is trying to get publicity and is trying to communicate to his conservative voters his conservative credentials by saying I’m standing up for life in the state of Louisiana, the problem is the Bond Commission has nothing to do with abortion,” said Collins.

And Collins says the bond commission’s approach to the abortion issue could cause other problems down the road.

“It’s problematic because it opens up a can of worms, it opens up Pandora’s box that for future appropriations from the committee any time a commissioner wants to punish a local elected official in a parish they might start using the Bond Commission to do that but that’s really not the legislative position of the Bond Commission,” said Collins.

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