Landry to treasurer, bond commission: Halt New Orleans financing for not enforcing abortion law
Anti-abortion Gov. Edwards disagrees with attorney general’s stance
Attorney General Jeff Landry wants the Louisiana Bond Commission to block any financing for New Orleans projects because city leaders have refused the enforce the state's abortion laws. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Attorney General Jeff Landry is calling on Louisiana’s treasurer and the state bond commission not to approve financing for any deals involving New Orleans since its mayor, police department and district attorney have refused to enforce the state’s abortion laws.
This potentially puts at jeopardy a plan to finance the construction of a new power plant for the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans. It’s a project city leaders have said is essential to address a glaring weakness in the municipal drinking water, drainage and sewage system.
“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,” Landry said in a letter sent Tuesday to the bond commission and Treasurer John Schroder.
The Louisiana Bond Commission meets Thursday. On its agenda is a resolution that states the commission’s intent to reimburse lines of credit for “Priority 1” local projects in the capital outlay budget state lawmakers have approved. In New Orleans, they include:
- $32.7 million for the construction of the Sewerage and Water Board power plant;
- $2 million to rehabilitate the old Veterans Administration hospital; and
- almost $2 million for improvements to recreational and soccer facilities.
State projects in New Orleans the Edwards’ administration has placed on Thursday’s bond commission agenda include:
- a nearly $2 million cash line of credit for improvements to the Superdome totaling almost $27 million;
- $2.76 million for the construction of a civil rights museum; and
- $1.1 million for repairs in City Park, a city-owned and state-administered site.
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In a statement, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Landry’s “hostility towards reproductive freedom comes as no surprise.”
“However, what is surprising and troubling, is that the Attorney General would place critical infrastructure and state assets in harm’s way just to score political points for his run for Governor,” Cantrell said in the statement. “The businesses of New Orleans rely on our partnership with the state to protect vital assets, businesses and residents from flooding. By politicizing an essentially technical process, the Attorney General demonstrates he would rather score cheap political points on the backs of women than govern — residents and the business community just are not top priorities .”
The mayor also noted that no second round of state bond financing can move forward until the Priority 1 projects are funded.
There was no immediate response to Landry’s letter from Schroder, who was in New Orleans alongside Cantrell on Tuesday for the groundbreaking of an affordable housing development financed through the state. A spokesperson for the treasurer said he would not discuss the topic until Thursday’s bond commission meeting.
Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder, far right, joins New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, left, for a groundbreaking ceremony July 19, 2022, for a state-financed affordable housing development in the city’s Hollygrove neighborhood.
‘His fixation to target women’
The New Orleans City Council approved a resolution July 7 encouraging local authorities not to dedicate any resources toward enforcing Louisiana’s abortion ban. A Baton Rouge judge decided Tuesday to keep a temporary restraining order in place while the court considers a permanent injunction from a Shreveport clinic, its administration and a medical students’ group that has sued the state.
In his letter, Landry accused New Orleans leaders of breaking the law even though the abortion ban cannot be enforced.
“The officials in New Orleans took an oath of office to support and enforce the laws of our State, yet they appear to have decided that some laws are not worthy of enforcement,” Landry write. “Nothing in the statutes, the City Charter, or the State Constitution permits these officials to blatantly ignore State law, conspire not to enforce it, and violate their oaths of office in this manner. In fact, our State Constitution prohibits this very conduct.”
In response, Council President Helena Moreno said in a Twitter post that the city was prioritizing its law enforcement resources for fighting violent crime and that the attorney general should do the same.
I wish Mr. Landry could channel his fixation to target women and interfere in healthcare decisions to instead helping cities across LA battling major violence including the Acadiana region where he’s from. It’s about priorities. In NOLA we must prioritize curbing violence. https://t.co/IA8Dh3kLS0
— Helena Moreno (@HelenaMorenoLA) July 19, 2022
At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards was asked about Landry’s directive for the bond commission and treasurer. The governor, who supported the abortion laws in question, said it was an “not a reasonable approach” for Landry to punish everyone in the city because he disagreed with their elected leaders.
What’s the point of @LouisianaGov signing these laws, if he doesn’t care about them being enforced? https://t.co/7aXXbeoRH5
— AG Jeff Landry (@AGJeffLandry) July 19, 2022
The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office did not respond to questions from the Illiminator about Landry’s letter. Tuesday was the first day of Orleans DA Jason Williams’ federal trial on a federal tax fraud charge. He has previously said he would not prosecute abortion seekers or doctors.
Power plant on shaky ground again
Landry is one of 14 members of the bond commission, which also includes the treasurer, the governor, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, Senate President Page Cortez, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and six other Republican lawmakers who influence state spending.
With a huge surplus of federal cash available, the Legislature added the power plant to the state’s capital outlay budget for 2022-2023. If the bond commission should line up behind Landry, it would result in yet another dead end for the $70 million Sewerage and Water Board power plant project that has been floated for about 10 years.
Much of the utility’s infrastructure relies on outdated turbines that frequently break down and are a challenge to repair because replacement parts are no longer available. Backup generators have been thrust into frontline duty for the past five years during heavy rainfall and hurricanes. City leaders have pursued the construction of a Entergy substation on SWB property to bolster the power supply, and it has federal infrastructure money in hand to cover the local portion of the project.
Entergy had initially agreed to finance $30 million for the project but backed out earlier this year, citing the drain that Hurricane Ida damage created on its finances. Those storm recovery costs are expected to be passed along to ratepayers.
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