Bills to shrink School Board, form Eastside district filed

Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter

State Sen. Rob Marionneaux Jr. has pre-filed bills in the legislative session starting Monday to cut the number of Iberville Parish School Board members by two thirds and impose term limits, as well as form a new school district to the City of St. Gabriel.

Marionneaux, who advertised his intentions to file the local measures, said he personally is proposing to cut the size of the School Board from 15 to five – four elected from single member districts and one elected at large parishwide.

The bill (SB420) also would require the School Board to reapportion itself into the four districts by August 31, 2011, based on the results of the 2010 Census, and call a new election in the fall of 2012. Additionally, the measure would set limit school board members elected in 2012 and thereafter to three consecutive terms in office.

The bill to split St. Gabriel into a separate school district (SB340) is a proposed constitutional amendment that would require approval of voters statewide.

St. Gabriel Mayor George L. Grace, who requested the legislation, told the School Board earlier this month he had information that it might renege on a promise to build a new magnet school facility for the Iberville Parish Math, Science and Arts Academy on Eastside.

The School Board voted 14-1 to advertise for bids for the construction MSA-East in an effort to stem the push for the separate district.

Marionneaux has filed 22 other bills with state

wide effect, including two to further limit smoking at bars or casinos, and one which would give voters the option to discontinue the use of video bingo machines in their local areas. He also wants to allow to state colleges and universities to raise fees without a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, and has proposed a constitutional amendment to effect the change.

State Rep. Karen St. Germain has pre-filed 27 bills, most of them for such state agencies as the departments of Environmental Quality (which must be reauthorized this year under the state's “sunset laws”), Wildlife and Fisheries and Natural Resources.

St. Germain said she tapped for the duty because she is considered a “veteran” legislator. (St. Germain is serving her second term in office, but noted she had been legislative assistant to former state representatives Charlie Melancon and Audrey McCain.)

One measure she will push for is an appropriation for the Department of Natural Resources' Atchafalaya Basin Program, which has proposed a number of projects for Iberville Parish in the new fiscal year. The new North Iberville Visitors Center that opened last week at Grosse Tete is among local projects already funded through the program, she noted.

St. Germain said she and Marionneaux also would seek additional construction state money for a North Iberville community center for which the parish has purchased land.

Because of tight state finances, much of the session will center on budget issues, St. Germain said.

“There's going to be so much discussion about the budget, and we have to pay major attention to that,” she said. “We're going to have people grandstanding politically, and I'm not into that. I want to take care of my people.”

State Rep. Elton M. Aubert, who represents southern and eastern Iberville Parish, had not pre-filed any bills as of Monday.