Jindal won't seek legislative backing on LSU deals

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday he won't seek legislative approval of his administration's LSU hospital

privatization agreements, though both the House and Senate have voted that they want such decision-making authority.

Jindal said he believes the legislative resolutions that have received support requiring budget committee backing of the lease

agreements don't carry the force of law.

He said lawmakers would need to change state statute to get such approval authority, citing an attorney general's opinion,

issued before the resolutions were filed, that said the legislative backing isn't required under current law.

"There is an existing statute that specifically tells us how to proceed, and we'll certainly comply with the law," Jindal

said.

The Republican governor is pushing to privatize all but one of the university-run hospitals that care for the poor and uninsured

around the state and train many medical students.

This week, the Senate adopted a resolution by Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, that includes a requirement that the hospital

deals get approval from the Senate Finance Committee.

"I think the majority of senators believe it now requires Senate committee approval," Murray said. "This is a really big issue,

and a majority of those members think it should require committee approval, and that's what the resolution seeks to do."

Meanwhile, the House agreed to a joint

resolution by Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, — which also needs

backing from the

Senate — that broadens that requirement to direct the LSU Board of

Supervisors to submit the lease arrangements to the joint

House and Senate budget committee for approval before they could

begin.

The resolutions have received broad, bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

Lawmakers who supported the resolutions said they believe the Jindal administration must follow the approval requirements

outlined in the legislation. It's unclear, however, whether lawmakers will try to enforce the approval authority they are

seeking to gain through the House and Senate resolutions.

The privatization effort largely came after

Louisiana received a steep cut in its federal Medicaid financing rate.

Jindal

levied most of the cut on the LSU public hospital system, rather

than on private health care providers in the Medicaid program.

Lawmakers have raised concerns about the arrangements, saying they worried the rapid push for privatization could jeopardize

care for the uninsured and damage medical training programs.

Leases for most hospitals are under

negotiation, with final agreements approved by the LSU governing board

only for its hospitals

in New Orleans and Lafayette. Those are scheduled to be presented

to the legislative budget committees next week for discussion

— but not approval, according to the governor.

Jindal attributes the legislative approval

efforts to people trying to slow privatization efforts, which he said

would improve

services and education programs. He said if lawmakers want to

delay, they need to offer a substitute plan to shrink hospital

spending.

"What we've not heard from anybody that wants to slow down this process is what their alternative solution would be to continue

these services, to enhance these services, to reduce spending for Louisiana's taxpayers," the governor said.