By Pat Bryant
A proposed law by powerful Senator Karen Carter Peterson was deferred last week after a core of civil rights and women leaders fought back, and the New Orleans Senator did not bring the bill up for discussion and vote in the House Committee on Health and Welfare. The bill may be rescheduled, according to legislative rules within 24 hours. But continued citizen pressure may mean the bill is dead for this session of the legislature.
The Senate Bill 224 had no members in the House of Representatives as co-author. The Baton Rouge and New Orleans Chapters of the NAACP and Justice and Beyond had lobbied members of the House and Senate against the bill.
If passed the bill would abolish HEAL, the Health Education Advisory Authority of Louisiana and put it under the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority. Senator Peterson said the agency was ineffective and early on cited challenged findings of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.
HEAL has authority to issue $800 million state backed construction bonds for health projects. The agency’s authority was doubled by Peterson by the 2016 legislature
Jacob Johnson, executive director of HEAL, was supported by Justice and Beyond and community leaders. Kim Ford and Major Tracey Riley led the charge in social media and mobilizing a bus of supporters to committee hearing in the House and Senate.
Johnson is Black. And so is Senator Karen Carter Peterson. But Kim Ford and Major Tracey Riley, retired from the U.S. Army fought back saying the audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor was racially inspired. Read a report from Think504.
Johnson sued the Legislative Auditor saying that the auditor is in the practice of giving Black leaders bad audits while not doing so with Whites. The LLA recently audited Sheriff Marlin Gusman, the Civil District Court and the Louisiana Supreme Court. Thirty-Four hours of taped recording are alleged by Johnson to contain information that indicates the LLA is being used to discredit disproportionately Black leaders. The law suit contains a disparaging quote, allegedly from the tapes, about Louisina Supreme Court Justice Bernett Johnson. Click to see the Stamped Lawsuit