With a 21-16 vote, the Louisiana Senate passed a controversial bill that would allow the state's attorney general to hire outside counsel via contingency contracts. Yesterday, the bill was read in the House and referred to the Committee on Civil Law and Procedure.

Democratic Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell tried to get a similar bill passed last year, but couldn't get the support necessary to move it forward.

This year, Senate President Joel Chaisson (D-Destrehan) introduced the bill and, fueled by the 51-day old BP oil leak, it passed after a good deal of passionate debate.

The state's business community vows to continue to fight the bill and has merged as a coalition of more than 30 trade associations to do so. They say contingency contracts will make an already bad business environment that much worse; warning that passage of the bill will deter even more companies from coming to the state.

Nonetheless, supporters of the bill say contingency contracts will be the only way Caldwell and the state will have a fighting chance in the imminent legal battle with BP.

Last week, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal allocated $5 million of the state's $25 million BP oil spill grant to the attorney general's office for use in a suit against the corporation.

Currently, attorneys general can hire private lawyers under a contingency contract in 48 states.

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