NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A decision to block two major banking companies from bidding for Louisiana business is wrapped in controversy. The Louisiana Bond Commission voted to bar Bank of America and Citibank from making a bond offer to work on Louisiana state highways.
It's going to cost an estimated $90 million to improve the I-10 interchange at Loyola Drive in Kenner, according to Louisiana DOTD. It will cost another $12.5 million to replace the Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel.
But in a decision by the State Bond Commission, a couple of big banks won't bid to help fund any of those projects. And it's because of the debate over the Second Amendment. In a 7-6 vote, Acting Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin cast the deciding vote to bar the banks. The banks responded to a list of the commission's questions about their gun policies.
Bank of America said they limit business with manufacturers that sell military-style weapons to civilians.
Citibank encourages their clients to do background checks on buyers and only sell firearms to those 21 and over.
But lawmakers decided those policies didn't align with Louisiana values.
"The intention is to stand up for the people of Louisiana. The right to bear arms is precious, as is the right to vote," Ardoin said.
Attorney General Jeff Landry voted for the block, saying it's the responsibility of legislators to legislate.
"If we allow corporations to use their market share and financial power to shape social policy, I believe it's a slipper, and dangerous slope, and Louisianans have repeatedly affirmed their belief in the Second Amendment. Our constitutional protections are some of the strongest in the nation, and I think it was a great message to send these financial institutions that, just be a bank, and leave public policy up to elected officials," said Landry.
FOX 8 Political Analyst Mike Sherman questions how much a decision like this will cost taxpayers, but also issued a reminder: Campaign season is about to begin.
"Many elected officials are trying to score points with voters on issues they hold dearly, whether it's gun rights or the death penalty, which we saw recently. What makes this so controversial is the connectivity between a bond sale and the gun rights issue is not very close," said Sherman.
Among those who voted to keep the two banks in the bond bidding process was Senate President John Alario.
"Those companies don't stop people from purchasing guns. In Louisiana, we would not stand for that just through our regular constitution," said Alario.
Alario says there's a concern not only for costly lawsuits, but if the vote will cost taxpayers and the state in general.
"I think it hurts Louisiana's image overall that we would get into social issues that have nothing to do with the financial issues…Hopefully we do get a good pricing on the matter and Louisiana doesn't get hurt that badly," said Alario.
But Ardoin believes standing up for the Second Amendment is priceless.
"There's 19 competitors left on the table for the bonds. I think there's plenty of competition to go around, and I don't think the naysayers will be proven right," he said.
Bank of America declined to comment on the bond commission's vote.
Citibank sent the following statement: