Last Modified: Friday, May 11, 2012 2:29 PM
BATON ROUGE — A land sale involving McNeese State University and the Chennault International Airport Authority was approved Wednesday by the House’s Natural Resources and Environment Committee.
The committee also approved a measure by Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, to remove all limits on oyster harvesting permits each year in Calcasieu (Big) Lake.
All three bills move to the full House.
The 30 acres of McNeese property are adjacent to the airport and will be used as a protection zone for a new runway that will be constructed alongside an existing one. The property has been appraised at $630,000.
The sale is the subject of two Senate bills sponsored by Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur.
Senate Bill 219 would allow the transfer. Senate Bill 661 would allow Chennault to sell part of the property to the city of Lake Charles. City officials want to move their public works facility on Broad Street because it is in the runway’s path.
The Federal Aviation Administration will pay for the $19.5 million runway and will also pay $500,000 of the property’s total value. The city will pay the remaining $130,000.
The Air Force donated the property in question to McNeese in 1963 when the Chennault Air Force Base was deactivated.
Morrish has said the oyster permit limits were part of a bill he sponsored last year. The goal, he said, was to protect the oyster population in the lake.
“It caused a lot of people not to be able to fish and lose income,” he has said.
Southwest Louisiana House members split their votes here Wednesday on a proposed constitutional amendment that would have made it easier to create new school districts across the state. The legislation failed to get the required two-thirds vote.
Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, sponsored the amendment that would have changed the Legislature’s authority to “create parish school boards... .” The bill would have deleted the word “parish” and replaced it with “create local public schools... .”
The vote on the amendment was 53-44, 17 votes short of the 70 required for passage.
Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, and Reps. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, and Frank Howard, R-Many, voted for the amendment. Against were Reps. James Armes, D-Leesville, Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, A.B. Franklin, D-Lake Charles; Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings, and Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek.
Seabaugh amended the bill to make it impossible to create a local school district from more than one parish. He also removed statewide approval that is currently necessary to create new school districts.
New districts would have only had to be approved in the affected parish and by voters in the district being created.
Opponents of the amendment said it would have taken funds from other school districts anytime a new district was created.
Armes spoke against the legislation, saying school districts are already confused about recent education reform legislation and the amendment would create more confusion.
"Let's see what it's going to cost first," Armes said.
The House Education Committee earlier in the day voted 12-6 for a Senate bill that creates the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School System. It would become the fifth school district in East Baton Rouge Parish if approved by voters statewide and in the parish this fall.
The measure was referred to another House committee before it comes up for full House debate.
A bill denying tenure to new school bus drivers was approved here Wednesday by a vote of 61-39.
The loss of job protection only applies to drivers who are hired on July 1 this year or thereafter. The measure moves to the Senate.
Voting for the bill were Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, and Reps. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings, and Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville.
Against were Reps. James Armes, D-Leesville, A.B. Franklin, D-Lake Charles, Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek, and Frank Howard, R-Many.