Likely vote on Louisiana draft caught in abortion debate

RED STICK — As the political tussle over enforcement of Louisiana’s near-total abortion ban continues between Republicans on Capitol Hill and Democratic leaders in the state’s most populous city, the the state is expected to vote Thursday on whether to continue withholding funding approval. for a vital power plant project in the New Orleans area.

For a commission generally known for its historically actuarial role, the abortion debate would generally be beyond its purview. Yet that has seeped into recent meetings – with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry urging fellow members to “use the tools at our disposal to bring” New Orleans leaders opposed to enforcement the ban on “step-by-step” abortion. Caught in the crossfire is a future $39 million line of credit for a power plant, essential to power the drainage pumps that evacuate rainwater in a city facing chronic flooding problems.

While some have described the commission’s decision in July and August to deny approval as overbroad, Landry argued that a message needs to be sent to New Orleans officials who he believes may be mischievous. in compliance with the law.

The battle between Democratic city leaders and Republicans in reliable red states has been unfolding across the country since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to end constitutional abortion protections in June. Dozens of prosecutors across the country — including in Florida — have vowed not to prosecute people who request or provide abortions. In St. Louis, hours after the mayor signed a measure for $1 million to travel to abortion clinics in other states, the Missouri attorney general filed a lawsuit to block it. City councils in places like Austin, Texas and Nashville have passed measures urging law enforcement not to prioritize enforcement of the abortion ban.

“It’s about the fact that there are elected officials, not just in the state but across the country, who seem to thumb their noses at future laws – and think they can choose which laws they want to follow and the ones they don’t,” Landry said.

In Louisiana, the law prohibits all abortions unless there is a substantial risk of death or impairment to the patient if she continues the pregnancy and in the case of “medically futile” pregnancies – when the fetus has a fatal abnormality. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

Following the fall of Roe c. Wade, the mayor, district attorney and sheriff of New Orleans have sworn to oppose the strict ban. In addition, the city council passed a resolution ordering police and prosecutors not to use city funds to enforce the ban.

Landry, a Republican seen as a likely candidate for Louisiana governor in 2023, described opposition from city leaders as a “dereliction of duty.” He turned to the Bond Commission, which voted to deny preliminary line of credit approval for a New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board power plant project.

State Sen. Jimmy Harris, a Democrat who represents New Orleans, urged commission members to approve the future line of credit – noting that the plant would help protect 384,000 people, allowing them to drink and drink. bathing in clean water, instead of frequent boil water advisories. . Currently, the pumps are powered by outdated turbines, which also feed the city’s water and sewer system.

“Find something non-essential to pursue,” Paul Rainwater, a New Orleans lobbyist, told the commission in August. “Not the Sewerage and Water Board, not the power station, not the pumps.

In a state that has been devastated by natural disasters, flooding is a top concern, especially as Louisiana is in the midst of hurricane season. Forecasters have predicted there will be 14 to 20 named storms this year, including 6 to 10 hurricanes.

Although approval of a future line of credit would not immediately release project funds, approval would send a “critical signal” to entrepreneurs that funds would be available to complete the project. The city and Entergy New Orleans are paying the majority of the cost of the project, but Rainwater said state funding will be needed to keep the project on track for completion in 2024.

Approval or withholding of the line of credit for a third consecutive month will be determined at the Bonds Committee meeting on Thursday, which is due to begin at 10 a.m.