[UPDATE: Shortly after posting this article, The IND received a call from Sen. Fred Mills, who says it appears the House of Representatives will forego today’s expected vote on the amended version of HB 420. With this year’s Session set to end at 6 p.m., that means the proposed legislation is dead, or as Mills describes it: “To be continued next year."]

Lafayette Rep. Vincent Pierre’s House Bill 420 should go before the House of Representatives today for a final vote, albeit in a vastly different form: There is no mention of Holy Rosary Institute, its restoration, or the redirection of $200,000 from the Cajundome and Convention Center.

  Photo taken from Holy Rosary Redevelopment's website
Photo taken from Louisiana Legislature's website

Heavily altered by Republican Sens. Page Cortez of Lafayette, Elbert Guillory of Opelousas, Fred Mills of Parks, and Jonathan Perry of Kaplan, the legislation now provides far more protections for the distribution of the state’s cut of the Lafayette Parish hotel/motel tax and its longtime benefactor, the Cajundome and its Convention Center, which have used that money since 1998 for the upkeep and maintenance of facilities.

The amended version of the bill stipulates that the rebate — which has averaged about $3 million in recent years — must first be used to pay the Cajundome’s yearly bond payment. The next $200,000 from the rebate will go toward the Lafayette Parish Convention and Visitors Commission.

Though Pierre originally called for a redirection of that $200,000 to Holy Rosary Redevelopment — a private nonprofit, but not the property's actual owner — the amended version states that those funds will instead go to LCVC and be used “for the purpose of funding a grant program benefitting museums located in Lafayette Parish and promoting tourism in Lafayette Parish, specifically including the restoration of historic sites and buildings located in Lafayette Parish.”

It appears as though Pierre's bill actually led to additional protections for the Cajundome, as the amended bill stipulates that any remaining money, up to $3 million, will go toward “planning, development and capital improvements” of the site. Once that obligation is met, the bill then calls for another allocation to LCVC of $100,000 to be used for a grant program “benefitting museums located in Lafayette Parish and promoting tourism in Lafayette Parish, specifically including the restoration of historic sites and buildings located in Lafayette Parish.” The Cajundome would then receive whatever remains in the fund for “additional planning, development and capital improvements,” the bill reads.

Holy Rosary gets nothing, unless LCVC sees fit to grant it money.

The new bill also defines how the LCVC grant program will work, stating that issuance of the grants will be based on availability and a competitive application and review process. Recipients of the grants also will be required to have a 100-percent fund match already in place before any money will be issued. The amended bill also calls for the creation of a “non-compensated” 10-member oversight committee chaired by LCVC’s executive director. The legislation states that the committee will be charged with creating a set of guidelines and policies “for grant eligibility, match eligibility, submission of applications, evaluation and awarding of grants, a monitoring process, penalties for failure to meet performance obligations, and any other matters necessary for the administration of the program.”

Thursday marks the last day of this year’s regular session; the amended bill, following the Senate’s unanimous approval Wednesday, goes to a full vote of the House today.

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