Despite a flurry of activity Thursday, a showdown vote on a bid to set up a new public school district in southeast Baton Rouge was delayed until Friday.
The proposal, Senate Bill 299, fell four votes short of the needed two-thirds majority — 70 votes — on Wednesday.
The vote was 66-34 in favor of the measure, which is a proposed constitutional amendment.
State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central and chief sponsor of the plan, walked up and down the aisles of the House chamber in a bid to round up votes.
So did state Reps. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge and House handler of the bill, and Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge and a backer of the new district.
Leaders of Local Schools for Local Children, a community group that is leading support for the measure, huddled outside the House chamber in anticipation of a possible vote.
Meanwhile, some leaders of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, which vehemently opposes the measure, and some mothers with children in East Baton Rouge Parish public schools critical of the plan huddled near the chamber.
But when the House got to the bill Ponti asked that it be returned to the calendar, a procedural move that delays action on the measure for another day.
Ponti said afterwards that some previous opponents of the measure want more information about state plans to make major changes in 20 to 25 low-performing public schools in East Baton Rouge Parish.
“So we are giving them that time,” he said.
But state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge and a leading opponent of the legislation, said backers clearly lacked the 70 votes they need.
“I believe that we are going to be able to stand firm tomorrow as well,” Smith said.
The issue has broken mostly along party lines in the House.
On Wednesday the bill was backed by all 58 Republicans in the House, six Democrats and two representatives without party affiliation.
All the “no” votes were cast by Democrats. All five who missed the vote are Democrats.
The proposed amendment has already passed the Senate. A companion bill, which would spell out details of the change in state law, has passed both chambers.
However, the amendment has to win legislative approval, and be endorsed by voters statewide and in East Baton Rouge Parish on Nov. 6 to take effect.
The new, 10-school district would extend southeast from the Interstate 10/12 split, south of I-12 and east of I-10 to the parish lines.