Guest post: Jefferson Parish Council wants to deprive citizens of the right to vote on the lease of our public hospitals
Supporters of Good Government:
Citizens for Good Government is extremely disturbed about the secretive way in which our Jefferson Parish Council has asked our Louisiana legislative delegation to change the STATE LAW that requires a vote of the people in order for our public hospitals to be sold or leased.
It is alarming that the council passed a resolution at the last council meeting without even letting citizens know what they were attempting to do. The resolution, which was passed without discussion, resolved that “The Jefferson Parish Louisiana State legislative delegation and the entire legislature of the State of Louisiana amend, modify and/or revise La. R.S. 46:1064.2.” This resolution did not elaborate on the purpose of this revised statute, nor did it indicate exactly how the council wanted our legislature to change it.
However, R.S. 46:1064.2(C), which applies only to Jefferson Parish, is very explicit, and it states:
“The hospital service district shall sell or lease the hospital ONLY if the proposed sale or lease is approved by a majority of the qualified electors of the hospital service district voting on the proposition at an election held for that purpose and conducted in accordance with the Louisiana Election Code.”
It is clear that any changes which the council wants to make to this statute would deprive the citizens of Jefferson Parish of their right to vote on any proposed sale or lease of our hospitals. However, East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center belong to the citizens of Jefferson, not to the politicians, since our taxes paid to build these hospitals, and we object to any effort to take away our right to vote on their future.
It appears that our council has the philosophy that if you don’t like a law, rather than obeying it, you just change it. This is outrageous.
We became aware of the intentions of the council when the Times-Picayune’s nola.com published an article on February 27th by Drew Broach entitled, “Jefferson Parish hospitals could be leased without a public vote, under Parish Council request”. The Times-Picayune article quoted Sheriff Newell Normand, who is also Chairman of the Board of East Jefferson General Hospital, that “the hospitals are evaluating three proposals from other health care systems for partnerships,…and eliminating the requirement for a lease referendum would make it easier for officials to evaluate the proposals fairly.” We would like to point out to Sheriff Normand that having citizens vote on this issue might be inconvenient, but is our right under our form of government, and we do not want to have this right taken away from us to make it easier for the hospital boards to take action with regard to these extremely valuable assets belonging to the citizens of Jefferson.
What is particularly disturbing about this action of the council is the secretive way it came about. First there was the Special Executive Session Meeting, not open to the public, on February 21st about “JP Hospital & Health Services District Marketing Strategies.” Furthermore, we were not provided with any information on the decisions made at this meeting. Then there was the resolution asking our state legislators to change the state law, which was quietly added to the Addendum Agenda of the February 27th council meeting, and which was passed without discussion or explanation, so that citizens were essentially kept in the dark about this action, until the nola.com article was published.
Citizens for Good Government is adamantly opposed to changing the state law to deprive the citizens of Jefferson Parish of our right to vote on the future of our public hospitals. We sincerely hope that members of our Jefferson Parish state legislative delegation will NOT take our council up on their request to change the law to permit the sale or lease of these hospitals without a vote of the people.
Vice-Chairman, Citizens for Good Government