May 1, 2012

Chairman of the Superdome Commission, Ron Forman; and Regional Vice President over the Superdome and the Arena, Doug Thornton; spent the better part of their Monday visiting with lawmakers in the Capitol. Their goal was to persuade the House to vote in favor of House Bill 1072 a tax rebate bill for the New Orleans Hornets, which had failed to pass last Wednesday with a vote of 49-60.

An important amendment by Rep. Cameron Henry to shorten the time frame in which the state must pay the $3.65 million annual rate to 10 years from 15 years was a major compromise to ensure the bill would pass Monday’s afternoon vote.  Another Amendment made by Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro will require the Department of Economic Development to submit reports on the number of new jobs secured under the tax rebate. With a hefty $114 million annual impact the New Orleans Hornets average 1,600 direct and indirect jobs each and every year for The Big Easy.

The total cost of the bill is set at $36.5 million, considerably less than the previously proposed $54.75 million.  Even with the drop in price, opposing Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin thinks the money would better be spent upgrading some of the poor state-run hospitals in the area.

“We are going to give the wealthiest man in this state another $36 million? … What’s wrong with this picture?”

Jones proposed an amendment to require the owner of the Saints, Tom Benson; to sign Quarterback Drew Brees to a five year contract to qualify the Hornets payments.

“This is an easy one,” Jones said. “I want our money to follow our quarterback.”

Henry was quick to respond with acknowledgement that while re-signing Drew Brees would no doubt be good for the city, amending the Hornets tax rebate would not keep Brees with New Orleans Saints.  Jones amendment was put to a vote and declined by 30-61.

Late Monday afternoon after all amendments to the bill had been voted and agreed upon, House Bill 1072 passed with an overwhelming 60-41 vote. Passage of the bill helps ensure the Hornets stay in New Orleans through 2024, while creating thousands of new jobs in the surrounding area.

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