BGR opposes levee boards’ restriction

The Bureau of Governmental Research on Thursday opposed another bill aimed at derailing the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East’s lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies.

This time the New Orleans-based nonprofit’s target is a Senate-passed bill that would give the governor and attorney general veto power over the hiring of special counsel by the Authority’s East and West Bank boards.

BGR said the requirement would interfere with the independence of the levee boards and increase the risk of political interference.

Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes the lawsuit filed by East’s board seeking to reimbursement for coastal damages it alleges were caused by the energy industry. State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Beton, filed multiple bills in an attempt to hamstring the board and scrap the lawsuit.

“SB 553 ... would allow the governor to block legal actions that he opposes by rejecting requests for special counsel,” BGR said in a new analysis. “It would also enable the governor to control the selection of counsel by rejecting all proposed attorneys, except for the attorney or law firm he prefers.”

BGR said the Legislature put a priority on “safeguarding the authorities from political interference” when they adopted new laws in 2006 after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina “so they could focus squarely on providing the best flood protection possible.”

“By allowing the governor to intrude in the authorities’ legal matters, SB553 would increase the risk of political interference. It should be rejected.”

SB553 sponsored by Adley, is pending in the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee.

BGR has previously opposed Senate Bill 79 which would unilaterally allow the governor to remove levee board members for it called “vague reasons” and SB629 which would transfer the two authorities into the executive branch.

SB79 is pending Senate floor action. SB 629 has not had a committee hearing.