In late February, state Rep. Walt Leger prefiled House Bill 514 in the Louisiana House of Representatives that would have allowed the city of New Orleans to enact a new property tax specifically for police and fire protection. Because of well-known civil rights abuses within the New Orleans Police Department, the U.S. Department of Justice is drafting an order known as a consent decree that will govern police operations, and many of its provisions are widely expected to be expensive, such as training or monitoring programs.
The bill, Leger told the Claiborne University Neighborhood Association in a Thursday night meeting about a security district, would have given the city a way to meet those costs quickly. It would have been modified before passage to fit the specifics of the federal order, Leger said.
“A lot of things are needed to upgrade the criminal justice system,” said Leger, a Democrat whose district covers a wide band of Uptown New Orleans from the Irish Channel to Hollygrove. “The bill was being filed in case it was necessary to create a new revenue stream to fund that.”
Federal prosecutor Sal Perricone served as the U.S. Attorney’s representative in the discussions about the order. Earlier this month, Perricone was unmasked as a frequent commenter on nola.com about that effort and other cases he was involved in, and he swiftly resigned. That scandal, Leger said, has put the entire effort in jeopardy.
“His involvement in the consent decree has hit the pause button on what the consent decree will be,” Leger said. “At this point, it’s kind of wait-and-see.”
Since the filing of the bill, Leger said he has had no further conversations with the city about the specifics of the tax.