A bid to set up a new public school district in southeast Baton Rouge suffered a setback Thursday morning in the state House.
The two-bill package has already passed the Senate.
One of the proposals, Senate Bill 563, needs a majority in the House — 53 votes.
But the other one, Senate Bill 299, is a constitutional amendment that needs two-thirds of the House — 70 votes.
A test vote by backers of the effort — a bid to change the order that the bills are debated — got a 60-38 vote, which is 10 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed for the constitutional amendment.
State Rep. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge and House sponsor of the bills, said he may proceed with SB 563 on Thursday but delay a vote on the constitutional amendment.
The session ends on June 4. The House may take a Memorial Day break after today before resuming action on Monday.
The bills have won broad support from Republicans, who control the House 58-45 with two independents.
That means even if the GOP lines up behind the constitutional amendment backers will have to win support from some Democrats to get the ballot measure through the House.
The House order of bills for debate on Thursday had the constitutional amendment set for a vote ahead of SB 563, which spells out details of the changes.
Ponti tried to move up SB 563 for debate.
Since that measures only requires 53 votes a tally on it would allow backers to guage support before the crucial vote on the constitutional amendment.
The new district would extend southeast from the Interstate 10/12 split, south of I-12 and east of I-10 to the parish lines.
It would include seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school.
About 6,800 students attend the schools.
Backers contend the change is needed because the East Baton Rouge Parish shool system has failed students and parents for years.
The district is rated “D” by the state.
Opponents say that authorizing a fourth breakaway district — Baker, Zachary and Central have already set up their own school systems — would leave a district of ovewhelmingly black students from poor families.
If the plan wins legislative approval it would be submitted to voters statewide on Nov. 6.
The proposal needs the support of voters statewide, and in East Baton Rouge Parish, to take effect.
State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central and chief sponsor of the plan, was in the House chamber Thursday morning chatting with House members and watching the action.
White is a former House member.
The constitutional amendment passed the Senate 29-7, which is three votes more than the minimun needed.
SB 563 passed 30-8.