A Louisiana House panel advanced Thursday legislation that would remove Baton Rouge Metro Council’s veto power over changes in fares, routes, schedules or other Capital Area Transit System operations.
The House Municipal, Parochial, and Cultural Affairs committee voted 13-3 for House Bill 865 sponsored by state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge. It now goes to the full House for consideration.
HB865 would also impose new qualifications for the CATS Board of Commissioners.
“I’m looking to make this system better,” said Barrow.
The Capital Area Transit System, called CATS), is considering route expansions and other changes if a property tax on the April 21 ballot passes. Bill proponents said the changes proposed would complement the tax increase proposal.
Today, the Metro Council has veto power over CATS board recommendations because of a $3 million taxpayer investment that has helped keep the bus system running.
Allowing CATS to control operations is “best practices,” said the Rev. Raymond Jetson, who chaired a blue ribbon transition commission.
“Following best practices the city-parish would no longer invest $3 million in the system but as a trade-off that veto authority would be removed,” Jetson said.
Woody Jenkins, chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party, and Elizabeth Dent and Alex Velasquez, both with Tax Busters, opposed the legislation.
Jenkins said CATS is not being well-run today. He argued that keeping veto power over CATS board actions with the Metro Council “is the only way the public has to be involved in the process.”
Voters in Baton Rouge, Zachary and Baker will go to the polls April 21 to vote on a 10-year, 10.6-mill tax proposal to fund CATS. The vote will occur separately in each of the jurisdictions. The proposed tax is projected to raise $16.7 million in Baton Rouge, $636,000 in Baker and $1.1 million in Zachary.