[Update: House Bill 531 was deferred Thursday morning at the request of Lafayette officials.]

The Senate Local and Municipal Affairs Committee on Thursday will take up a now-controversial bill by state Rep. Joel Robideaux, no party-Lafayette, that would create the Lafayette Parish Redevelopment Authority. The purpose of the bill is help Lafayette Parish deal with blighted properties in the parish by expediting the process by which dilapidated buildings are razed or refurbished and move back into commerce. The House Bill 531 zipped through the House on May 12 by a 96-0 margin.

However, a section of the bill granting the redevelopment authority — an appointed commission — the power to levy taxes and “call for any tax or other election” has generated opposition from both ends of the political spectrum.

On Wednesday, the Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee came out against HB 531, calling it a “badly flawed bill,” adding:

In addition, the bill would create yet another taxing authority with the apparently unchecked power to create Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts. These districts would target City of Lafayette residents and those living in unincorporated areas because the proposed law gives small municipalities in the parish the ability to opt out of participation in the scheme.

HB 531 represents the second attempt in two years by the Durel administration to solve a genuine problem — the proliferation of blighted and adjudicated properties. As was the case last year, this proposal would produce a powerful bureaucracy with the ability to seize and transfer property to new owners of its choosing. This organization would operate beyond the supervision of elected government and beyond the reach of citizen control. It is a proposal rich with opportunities for abuse.

We urge the Senators to reject this bill. We also recommend that the Durel administration engage a broader community dialog on this issue of concern to all residents and property owners.

The Dems push back against the bill came a few days the Tea Party of Lafayette targeted the bill in an letter to Senate committee members, characterizing it as “an egregious power grab with statewide implications, in that it opens the door to the use of de facto eminent domain at the local level (a power currently denied local governments in state law) and takes the power to deal with said properties away from local elected officials and gives it to a five member, appointed (un-elected) commission or authority.  What’s even worse, it puts the power of taxation into the hands of this autonomous 5-member board.”

Read House Bill 531 here.

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