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Louisiana Creates New Orleans Bioscience District

June 27, 2005

With hopes of creating a geographic concentration of academic and private bioscience research and commercialization, the Louisiana legislature ended its 2005 session with passage of a bill creating a new development authority. House Bill 742, the Greater New Orleans Biosciences Economic Development District Act, focuses on an area of several blocks in downtown New Orleans, but the bill grants the district's board the ability to redefine its boundaries by additional properties, including those outside the Orleans parish. The district may issue bonds to support acquisition of land and construction of buildings and other facilities.

The district, as currently defined, already includes the Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center, Tulane Health Sciences Center, the Louisiana Cancer Consortium, the Louisiana Gene Therapy Consortium, Delgado School of Nursing, the VA Medical Center, Charity Hospital and Xavier University. The bill's authors hope the district will anchor a growing cluster in the health and bioscience sectors that already employs 60,000 in Greater New Orleans.

The Act also grants the district broad economic development powers. How broad are the district's powers? In wording that might be the envy of any tech-based economic development program manager who believes her or his own enabling legislation borders on legislative micromanagement, Louisiana's House Bill 742 grants the district the "special powers to undertake any project or program beneficial to the district whether within or outside the boundaries of the district."

Governance for the district will be overseen by a new 13-member board comprised of leaders from Tulane, LSU, Xavier and Delgado Community College; the mayor of New Orleans and three appointees of the mayor; four appointees of the governor, and the secretary of the state department of economic development.

The bill awaits the signature of Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who supported the legislation. According to the Times-Picayune, the legislation has undergone numerous amendments pushed by Gov. Blanco and LSU, including diluting the role of business leaders on the governing board and requiring the district to operate within state public meetings and record laws.

Critics of the bill raised concerns over the board's authorization to seek voter approval for property tax increases and that the district may infringe on the authority of LSU and the other universities involved, the Times-Picayune reports.

H.B. 742 is available through the Louisiana State Legislature at: http://www.legis.state.la.us/