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Louisiana officials stall New Orleans flood funds over abortion

“This is them coming right out to the rest of the citizens of the state saying, ‘We don’t care what your law is,’” Landry mentioned at yesterday’s fee assembly.

Louisiana’s abortion ban doesn’t embody exemptions for rape or incest, and has pressured closure of abortion clinics all through the state, together with in New Orleans. City officials have made their opposition clear, with the City Council passing a decision this summer time asking police, sheriff’s deputies and prosecutors to not implement the ban. In response to the decision, which has help from New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the sheriff mentioned she wouldn’t settle for inmates accused of violating the ban on the jail, and the district legal professional mentioned he wouldn’t prosecute abortion suppliers or sufferers.

While New Orleans cops have been directed to analyze alleged abortions and write reviews about them, officers have additionally been instructed to not subject summons or make arrests.

Landry referred to as such strikes a “dereliction of duty,” with the potential 2023 gubernatorial candidate telling the fee it ought to “use the tools at our disposal to bring them to heel, quite frankly.”

The fee agreed, voting 7-6 yesterday to delay approving the road of credit score one other month and to ship a letter to metropolis officials asking them to look on the subsequent assembly and clarify their place. The fee resisted Landry’s proposed movement to completely withhold approval of the credit score line till the New Orleans City Council rescinds the decision.

The vote was instantly decried by New Orleans officials, with City Council President Helena Moreno saying town wouldn’t again down from its abortion stance.

“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,” she mentioned.

She highlighted the case of a Baton Rouge lady who was denied an abortion regardless of her fetus having no cranium — a deadly situation — for instance of the sorts of sufferers New Orleans is attempting to guard.

“The fact that the City of New Orleans is being punished for its careful consideration of new state laws is troubling and inappropriate,” she mentioned. “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.”

Cantrell agreed, calling the vote a “manufactured crisis of the Attorney General.”

“I will continue to prioritize necessary improvements to our City’s aging infrastructure, while fighting for the reproductive rights of all women,” she mentioned.

That Landry is just concentrating on flood reduction funds truly represents a slight backtrack in his place. Last month, he wrote a letter to fee members and state Treasurer John Schroder saying the physique ought to defer funding for all New Orleans initiatives till metropolis officials reversed course.

“It is my belief that a parish or municipality should not benefit from the hard-working taxpayers of this state while ignoring laws validly enacted by the people through their representatives,” the letter mentioned.

After lawmakers indicated that they’d not delay all funding to town, Landry’s workplace centered on the pumps undertaking. He didn’t object to fee votes yesterday to approve funding for 2 different New Orleans initiatives, together with one that might enhance the sewage system in accordance with a federal consent decree.

But Landry’s place has continued to enrage Schroder, who can also be rumored to be contemplating a 2023 gubernatorial run. The state treasurer believes the bond fee, which is made up of statewide elected officials and Legislature leaders, needs to be nonpartisan and noncontroversial, noting that the Legislature had already included the flood funding within the state’s capital outlay price range.

“We’re playing politics with this. I don’t like it,” Schroder, who hails from the New Orleans space, mentioned ultimately month’s assembly. “This is a bad, bad road to get on.”

Schroder did aspect with Landry when the fee voted 12-2 to delay approving the long run line of credit score for the pump undertaking final month however determined to not vote yesterday.

Instead, he questioned Landry about why the bond fee ought to turn into entangled within the abortion debate.

He requested Landry to make clear whether or not metropolis officials had truly damaged any legal guidelines, and whether or not the legal professional common’s workplace may use its different authorities to analyze that fairly than the bond fee withholding credit score approval.

“I don’t punish all my kids for what one does,” he mentioned. “I don’t think we should punish the individual economies, and that’s why I asked is there a way to do this legally instead of having this debate.”

Landry replied that although the Louisiana Constitution would enable the legal professional common’s workplace to supersede the district legal professional on felony issues, that provision has by no means been used.

“It is not as final or clear or efficient as what we are doing today,” he mentioned.

Staff members to Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) who sit on the fee additionally accused Landry of taking part in politics yesterday.

That included Jay Dardenne, who mentioned that even when New Orleans officials seem on the fee assembly subsequent month, they’re unlikely to capitulate. The fee ought to merely give its approval directly, he mentioned.

“It’s a shame that we are playing this game with these types of projects that are so important to the people of Louisiana,” he mentioned.

‘A pro-life project’

Though New Orleans elected officials didn’t attend the assembly, they did ship Paul Rainwater, a lobbyist who works on behalf of town and of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, which is answerable for the ability plant undertaking in query.

He tried to cause with Landry, arguing that the City Council’s decision was freedom of expression protected underneath the First Amendment.

“No laws have been broken,” he mentioned, noting that there are not any working abortion clinics in New Orleans however that the state itself has “assets” inside the metropolis which are affected by its power flood issues. “You are putting a lot of people at risk without that funding.”

Rainwater advised E&E News in an interview that the ability undertaking is vital for town to have the ability to adapt to local weather change.

The plant would energy a whole lot of pumps positioned all through town meant to take away rainwater trapped by its levee system. Currently, these pumps are powered by outdated generators, the primary of which was constructed on the flip of the century throughout the presidency of William Howard Taft.

The generators additionally energy town’s water and sewage system. With the present unreliable energy system, heavy rains pressure operators to prioritize whether or not to make use of the generated electrical energy for flood management or different sanitation wants.

“The torrential rains have become much more frequent, and flooding that used to be caused by a tropical storm or a hurricane we are now seeing with just 3 to 4 inches of rain in no time whatsoever,” he mentioned. “When a warning goes out that we have a thunderstorm going through, we could have flash flooding, and in some parts of the city, you may see 2 to 3 feet of water.”

The metropolis and Entergy New Orleans are paying for almost all of the undertaking’s value, however state funding shall be needed to finish the undertaking on time within the third quarter of 2024.

The bond fee’s approval of a future line of credit score wouldn’t instantly launch undertaking funds, however fairly put the undertaking ahead for the Legislature to really fund in its subsequent appropriations invoice. Still, fee approval would ship a “critical signal” to contractors that funds can be accessible to complete the undertaking, mentioned Rainwater, who underscored to the fee that he himself is “pro-life, Catholic and Republican.”

“Decouple these issues,” he mentioned. “Find something nonessential to go after, not the sewerage and water board, not the power station, not the pumps.”

Democratic state Sen. Jimmy Harris, who represents New Orleans, agreed, calling the undertaking “a pro-life project.”

“This project is to help us to where we don’t have to drown,” he mentioned. “Don’t tell me you love me but you’re not willing to keep me from drowning. I don’t want to hear that from nobody.”

That argument fell on deaf ears to fee members offended that neither the mayor nor any metropolis councilors appeared on the assembly themselves to clarify their abortion stance and ask for the funding.

“This is not specific to the project itself, it is specific to what we as a Legislature have passed and their desire or lack of desire to enforce the law,” state Rep. Jerome Zeringue (R ) mentioned.

One Republican on the fee additionally expressed considerations about Landry’s strategy.

State Sen. Bret Allain, who voted for the abortion ban, famous that town of New Orleans doesn’t management the sewerage and water board, and mentioned not supporting the road of credit score can be “problematic for me.”

“I think we are shooting at the wrong people,” he mentioned. “If we want to shoot at those who did the resolution, let’s take the shot, but let’s not endanger people.”

Matthew Block, the governor’s govt counsel and a panel appointee, pushed again towards an argument Landry and Zeringue had made that, simply as federal grants include circumstances, so too may the fee place circumstances on the road of credit score. That’s not allowed underneath the Louisiana Constitution, Block mentioned.

“We are saying we don’t like what they are doing so we are not doing our duty, which is exactly what you are saying they are doing,” he mentioned.

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