Unintended ConsequencesLafayette City/Parish Council Split
It’s only been a few weeks since the Lafayette City/Parish council announced their intention to separate into two distinct councils, and we’ve already found two twists in Louisiana State Law that are turning heads. If six of Lafayette City/Parish councilmen agree to split the City, and the voters agree, the updated charter would reduce the number of representative districts from nine to five. That change could be bringing with it several unintended consequences.
Campaign Finance Changes
The first twist we discovered was the campaign finance law. Moving from 9 to 5 representatives with no change in population means the 5 would now represent about 48,000 constituents each. According to Louisiana Revised Statute 18:1483(7)(d), the threshold between for a district office is 35,000. That change is pretty significant when it comes to maximum contribution amounts. A small office maximum is $1,000 per person, but a district office is $2,500 (a 150% increase). Larger districts are generally filled only by candidates who can raise money. It all but eliminates Joe Citizen from serving. Is this an unintended consequence?
School Board Changes
The next twist from the Parish council can be found under Revised Statute 17.71.5 subsection B. If a parish government under certain circumstances redraws district lines, then the school board in the same parish would forced to take on the same districting model. In other words, if the Parish loses 4 seats in the endeavor, then so does the School Board.
Subsection B details three requirements to trigger the school board’s redistricting, viz:
- The parish is governed by a home rule charter providing for a consolidated plan of government.
- The parish governing authority has reapportioned itself and reduced the number of its members when required to do so pursuant to procedures provided in the home rule charter.
- The school board has the same number of members elected from the same districts that the parish governing authority had prior to such parish governing authority reapportionment.
If all three of these requirements are met, then the school board must reapportion itself to match the parish districts – losing 4 seats. Is this an unintended consequence?
Could it happen?
What’s the likelihood that all of this could really happen? A cursory review by the Louisiana Secretary of State reveals that this is indeed a very likely scenario. State’s attorneys are looking into it now and we’re hoping to have an update before Tuesday night when the council will vote to throw this re-districting plan on the December ballot. We also reached out to a local school board member who ran the scenario by the board attorney. Again, the attorney’s quick review of the state law and the plan to reset the parish council to five seats appears to require the school board to do the same.
In closing, lets remember that campaign finance change we started this article with. If the reapportionment of the parish government to 48,000 people per district means that more money will need to flow into parish council candidates’ campaign accounts, then it’s also true of school board candidates.