In The News › Blanco home buyout bill derailed

Feb 17, 2006

Source: KATC-TV Lafayette

Blanco home buyout bill derailed

Blanco home buyout bill derailed

BATON ROUGE, La. — A procedural move derailed Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s key housing proposal
for hurricane victims and may have killed the bill for the special legislative session that ends

The legislation would create the Louisiana Housing and Land Trust Corp., which would use billions
of dollars in federal aid to provide grants and loans to homeowners, negotiate with banks and
lenders to refinance mortgages and repair debts, and buy out homes from people who can’t
afford or don’t want to rebuild.

The House rejected plans to hold a committee hearing on the Senate-passed bill Thursday night.
In order for the bill to pass, it would need approval from a House committee and the full House
on Friday. If the House makes any changes, the measure by Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans,
would need approval from the Senate, where the bill scraped through the first time.

Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, who is handling the bill in the House, said he wasn’t sure if the bill
could pass through all the hurdles before the Legislature adjourns at 6 p.m.

“I don’t know. This is such a fluid process, especially right here toward the end,” Gallot said.
Officials with the Blanco administration said they were continuing to try to attract support for the
housing bill, but they also were working on backup plans for spending the federal housing
assistance if the bill failed. Federal officials, who must approve the state’s ideas for using the
cash, said they want one entity through which the dollars flow.

“We’ll have to find a way to get money to the homeowners,” said Kim Hunter Reed, Blanco’s
deputy chief of staff.

Supporters said Duplessis’ bill would help homeowners who are paralyzed with financial problems
after hurricanes Katrina and Rita and would minimize pockets of blight in neighborhoods where a
significant portion of residents don’t have the means to rebuild their homes.

Spending plans developed by the trust would have to be approved by the full Legislature.
But opponents questioned the cost of the proposal and the level of new bureaucracy being
created, and they said it was too complex to be pieced together so quickly. Questions also were
raised about whether the state trust would conflict with New Orleans-area redevelopment plans.

The Bureau of Governmental Research, an independent New Orleans public policy group, said
Thursday that the trust proposal should be scrapped for the special session and considered again
in the next legislative session that begins in March because it is too complicated to analyze fully
in the session’s final hours.

“Matters such as its relationship to local government entities and their laws, allocation formulas
for buyouts and other compensation programs, the scope of development activities and powers,
contracting procedures, and ethics rules all deserve thoughtful analysis and consideration,” the
group said in its analysis.

Rep. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, objected to the rule suspension that would have allowed a
House committee to hear the bill early, on Thursday night instead of Friday. Though the vote was
56-34 to suspend the rules, the motion required a two-thirds vote of those legislators who voted.
Walsworth said too much money was at stake in the proposal, and he wanted it debated in
committee without a rush. He said if it doesn’t get through the special session, lawmakers could
debate it in the upcoming regular session.

“We’ve got plenty of time,” he said.

Under the Duplessis bill, any buyouts would be voluntary, and the homes bought by the land
trust could be redeveloped and resold to the homeowners, sold to developers or donated for
parks and other public purposes. Specifics of who would be eligible for the housing assistance
and the assistance that would be offered aren’t included in the legislation, however.

Those decisions would be left to the 11-member land trust board, packed with appointees chosen
mainly by the governor based on recommendations from various groups. At least five board
members would have to be from the hurricane-ravaged areas of the state.

Feb 17, 2006

Source: KATC-TV Lafayette

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