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Louisiana Legislative Update

Time To Get Going for 2013

“Preservation programs are effective in rebuilding populations, which is critical since Louisiana has lost two seats in Congress in 20 years. This trend must be reversed.”

Patricia H. Gay OUR STATEWIDE COALITION for preservation thanks each of you who contacted legislators during this last legislative session — it paid off, to a degree, and helped prepare the way to do more in 2013. Preservationists can claim wins and learn from losses during the last state legislative session in Baton Rouge and are organizing now for the 2013 legislature. Under the leadership of Louisiana Trust advocacy chair Sue Weaver from Natchitoches and others we are planning our strategy to convince legislators that preservation programs have a major impact on the economy and should be enhanced.   Louisiana consistently does well in historic preservation and has one of the best state historic preservation offices (SHPO) in the country, especially when it is adequately funded. With its dedicated and outstanding staff, the Louisiana SHPO is an economic engine that could be contributing even more to our economy and quality of life, especially through the Main Street program and rehabilitation tax credits. FUNDING FOR SHPO — Preservationists rejoiced when Rep. Cameron Henry and Appropriations Chair Jim Fannin’s committee, and then the entire House, passed an increase of $500,000 for SHPO programs, primarily Rep. Jim Fannin for Main Street and tax credit programs, which generate tax revenues, jobs, sustainability and ripple effect more effectively than most other economic d e ve l opm e nt programs. The SHPO budget had been cut 50 percent since 2009 — the $500,000 Rep. Cameron Henry would have restored 25 percent of what had been cut. (Not surprisingly, tax revenues declined respectively due to this cut, contributing to this year’s budget problems.) Unfortunately, the Senate Finance Committee refused to reinstate this revenue-generating funding, so there was no increase. Preservationists were greatly disappointed but at the same time encouraged — whenever we were able to reach a legislator, we were generally able to convince them of the economic impact of preservation programs. We are organizing now to reach all senators and representatives with this message. HISTORIC ST. CHARLES AVENUE — Rep. Walt Leger steered his bill into law that removed from the 1975 enabling legislation the prohibition for St. Charles Avenue above Jena Street from ever being protected by local historic district legislation. An 10 Preservation in Print • September 2012

exception to the bill is property owned by Tulane and Loyola universities for which the prohibition still stands. In the 1975 state enabling legislation that would allow any municipality in the state to establish protective preservation Rep. Walt Leger legislation, there were only two exemptions: St. Charles Avenue above Jena and the Garden Distinct in New Orleans. (The Garden District exemption was removed in 2001, and partial protection was established by the City Council in 2007.) Initially expected to be non-controversial and passing unanimously from committee, the bill later ran into opposition from the universities. Tulane and Loyola asked to keep university-owned properties fronting the historic avenue exempted in the legislation. Fortunately Rep. Leger was able to get it passed, with the university exemptions. PRC respects the opposition from the universities but believes that, since the legislation was only enabling, this issue was a local one to be resolved at the local level, not state. HOSPITALITY DISTRICT TAXING DISTRICT IN NEW ORLEANS — Sen. Karen Carter Peterson on the Local and Municipal Affairs Committee called for transparency in this bill to establish another taxing district in New Orleans. The bill was defeated primarily because of the failure to include official public review in the legislation. The proposed legislation would have increased sales tax in all restaurants and on hotel occupancy in the district, which was initially defined as including the CBD, the Vieux Carré, Marigny and Tremé. As neighborhoods and other organizations had not been included in developing the legislation,

several asked to be withdrawn from the proposed “hospitality district” and organized opposition to the bill based on several concerns. The hotels were not opposed to an increase in the occupancy tax, and there was support Sen. Karen Carter Peterson from other circles for the tax due to the need to improve infrastructure in the heart of the city, especially in preparation for the Super Bowl in February 2012. Tourism can and should benefit the city, such as providing funds for infrastructure improvements, but there should be public involvement and citizens must feel there is a commitment to the cultural appeal of the city as a whole, to authenticity and to the quality of life of residents as well as to the visitor experience. It is hoped that a new bill would address these concerns.   Preservation organizations from around the state, including the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation and the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, have formed an advocacy council. Encouraged by some success this past session and building on successes from previous years, preservationists will contact all state legislators about the economic potential for preservation programs and the need to restore funding for SHPO.  Preservation programs are effective in rebuilding populations, which is critical since Louisiana has lost two seats in Congress in 20 years. This trend must be reversed. Through our highly successful Main Street programs in over 30 towns and our effective use of the preservation tax credits and with outstanding and dedicated SHPO staff, Louisiana could soon see itself in a very positive light, attracting more and more business and residential development.

Louisiana Legislative Update  

Time to Get Going for 2013!

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