St. George vote bill dangled, then withdrawn

After a brief but fiesty exchange, a bill that would put the St. George incorporation effort up for a parishwide vote, not just in the unincorporated neighborhoods that would make up St. George, was set aside Tuesday.

State Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge and sponsor of the bill, said he plans to hold off on his proposal until the Metro Council votes on annexation efforts into the city of Baton Rouge by the Mall of Louisiana and others. That vote is set for May 28.

The legislative session ends on June 2, which means any effort by James to resurrect the measure in the final days of the Legislature could be complicated.

The legislation is House Bill 1212.

The House approved an amendment that would make the parishwide vote requirement only apply to East Baton Rouge Parish, which sparked criticism from state Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge.

“If citizens want to gather and assemble and say they want to form their own government they have to have the approval of the entire parish? You think that’s fair?” Hunter asked James.

James countered that a parishwide vote makes sense because, if St. George becomes a city, it could cost the parish at least $30 million.

“So this effort has the potential to affect not just that smaller area but I believe it would affect the entire parish and all should have a say,” he said.

Organizers of the incorporation effort have said they are close to gathering the roughly 18,000 valid signatures they need to get the issue on the ballot.

The annexation efforts by businesses now in St. George could affect plans for any vote because it could trim revenue the new city could count on for services.