What is going on in Baton Rouge today?
This just in from the Times-Picayune:
State halts land acquisition for New Orleans teaching hospital
Seeking leverage to force a truce between Louisiana State University and Tulane University, the state is suspending land acquisition activities for the teaching hospital proposed for lower Mid-City, the Jindal administration said today.
The announcement by Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis came a day after the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors rejected a draft memorandum of understanding that calls for the $1.2 billion hospital to be run by a non-profit corporation governed by an independent, 12-member board of directors.
Here is Commissioner Davis' full statement:
"There remains no agreement on the proposed governing structure and it is critical that we make an intensified effort to reach an agreement before the state acts to purchase the property. The proposed agreement called for a non-profit corporation to operate the hospital, with the corporation being responsible for obtaining debt financing. Without this corporation, or an agreement by the stakeholders to form the corporation, financing the project becomes a bigger challenge.
"This will have no impact on the VA Hospital and the on-going land acquisition activities for the new VA Hospital in New Orleans. Today, we are suspending land acquisition activities and efforts for the MCLNO / Charity replacement hospital pending a resolution of the governance issue."
This is, at face value, excellent news. However, our intial concern is that the state is basing the decision to halt acquisition based on the governance issue when the reality is that the LSU financing plan will remained flawed regardless of how Tulane and LSU resolve their political issues.
To that end, we're also interested in a resolution that was passed out of the Senate late yesterday. Senate Resolution 116 by Sen. Jack Donahue (R - Mandeville) "requests the LSU Board of Supervisors to submit all of its existing business plans and all supporting data for the development of a replacement for the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans to the Senate by 3 pm on Tuesday, June 23, 2009."
Thus, LSU would be encouraged to back up their bravado on their financing plan for construction of the proposed new medical complex. Rhetorically, it's similar to the inherently more substantive HB 780, which would have prohibited land acquisition until the Legislature approved a business plan.
This resolution strikes us as somewhat unusual. Perhaps Sen. Donahue is embarrassed about his vote against HB 780 on the Education Committee from two weeks ago.
Wild end to the session, no?
We'll report back when we know more.