Posted: Jun 30, 2014 9:41 PM by Brittany Weiss
Updated: Jul 1, 2014 5:50 AM
BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Attorney General's office said Monday that signatures collected to incorporate the city of St. George likely won't be invalidated by the Metro Council's May annexations of the Mall of Louisiana, Baton Rouge General and Our Lady of the Lake Hospital.
The opinion, signed by Assistant Attorney General Emalie A. Boyce reads, "this office does not find support in the law for a conclusion that any change to the circulating petition invalidates it, including a change in the legal description of the area sought to be incorporated."
Council members requested an opinion from the Attorney General's office in hopes of having the information prior to their vote. Annexing the mall and two hospitals into Baton Rouge would change the boundaries of the proposed city of St. George. Metro Council and others questioned whether this would make the petition worthless based on the changes.
St. George supporters said they weren't surprised with the Attorney General's opinion, because their legal counsel told them something similar.
"We realize this is just an Attorney General's opinion, and we're going to have to go fight this in court, but for today we'll consider it a win," said St. George spokesperson Lionel Rainey.
The Attorney General's office said any change to the current St. George petition would not invalidate it and to start a new petition, based on the new map boundaries would "severely cripple the efforts the efforts which have been taken," and "Louisiana law fails to specify that this is an appropriate conclusion."
Metro Councilman John Delgado, who does not support the incorporation of St. George, says the Attorney General's opinion is premature.
"If you ask 10 other attorney's you're going to get 10 other opinions," he said. "At the end of the day, it's the folks in the black robes that make the decision, not the guy in the suit and tie. So ultimately it's not the Attorney General that's going to decide anything, it's going to be the judges in the courts."
The Attorney General's office also said individuals who signed the petition in support of the original map have two choices if they which to change their support. They include withdrawing their signature from the petition once filed, or to vote against the incorporation, if it comes to a vote.
St. George organizers need 18,000 signatures of voters in the proposed area of St. George. Monday, supporters say they're moving their efforts from door to door and expect to have enough signatures by the November or December ballot. Organizers have until July 24 to make the November ballot.
A lawsuit filed to block the annexation of some property into Baton Rouge is expected to go to court in the near future. Former state lawmaker Woody Jenkins sued the city, saying it broke state law.