Jindal backs transfer of EKL site

Gov. Bobby Jindal will sign legislation allowing the vacated LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center property to be transferred to the East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority as part of redevelopment efforts.

The Louisiana Legislature signed off on the idea as it shipped Senate Bill 154 to Jindal to be signed into law. Jindal’s press secretary Sean Lansing said late Wednesday that the governor plans to sign the legislation.

State Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, inserted the Earl K. Long, or EKL, land transfer provision in legislation providing for a cooperative endeavor agreement involving land for a new Civil District Courthouse in New Orleans. The agreement involves the state allowing the old Louisiana Supreme Court site and the former state office building site located at 325 Loyola Ave., in New Orleans, to be used for the court site.

The Baton Rouge and New Orleans transactions are in the same bill, Senate Bill 154 sponsored by state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans.

“We have been actively engaged on the EKL property and are supportive of the transfer,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols wrote Wednesday in an email.

On the New Orleans property deal, Nichols wrote: “We will be happy to work with Sen. Murray and other New Orleans officials and stakeholders on the best plan for those properties.”

The north Baton Rouge Earl K. Long facility closed April 15 when inpatient care and LSU medical education programs moved to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, located off Essen Lane in south Baton Rouge.

The transfer of the land to the housing authority would prevent it from being sold as surplus property and give the community time to come up with a plan for the 14-acre tract located off Airline Highway, Broome said.

When the legislative session ends, Broome said discussions will resume among nonprofit groups, elected officials and other community stakeholders. The vision for the property involves a mixed use development similar to Towne Center, off Jefferson Highway and Corporate Boulevard, she said.

Broome said she is working on funding for demolition of Earl K. Long and clearing the land.

The legislation directs the LSU Board of Supervisors and the commissioner of administration to transfer the property to the EBR Housing Authority “in exchange for consideration proportionate to the appraised value of the property.”

The authority has already built housing behind the hospital property.

Also Wednesday, local legislators tackled the issue of LSU hospital privatization fallout.

The state House Health and Welfare Committee approved two resolutions:

Senate Concurrent Resolution 101, which would urge state health officials to adjust Medicaid rates to compensate area hospitals that have had an increased volume in uninsured and Medicaid patients since Earl K. Long’s closure.

The resolution, sponsored by state Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, applies only to Baton Rouge General Mid City and Lane Regional Medical Center in Zachary.

“We want them to look at it and do what can be done to reimburse these hospitals,” said state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville.

House Concurrent Resolution 139 directs the Division of Administration, the state Department of Health and Hospitals and the LSU Board of Supervisors to provide annual reports prior to legislative sessions concerning operation and management of LSU hospitals by private entities.

State Rep. Regina Barrow said the Earl K. Long and Our Lady of the Lake experience here prompted her to file the legislation as well as the Legislature being kept out of the loop on other deals.

“They have to come back and talk about the safety net, the cost savings associated with privatization, the outcomes, how it’s impacting the community,” said Barrow, D-Baton Rouge.