NEW ORLEANS – Legislation aimed at preventing the type of litigation that now embroils New Orleans' former World Trade Center passed the state Senate during its session on Sunday and now is on its way to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The Louisiana House unanimously passed SB 447 on Friday, but it was a different version than what the state Senate passed in April. Those revisions in the House required the second vote in the Senate on Sunday. The governor's signature is required to make the bill a law.
Passage is "a significant final legislative victory for the Four Seasons project today," Greg Beuerman, spokesman for the Carpenter-Woodward litigation team, said in an email statement to the Louisiana Record.
Carpenter-Woodward is working with developer Four Seasons New Orleans, which won the city of New Orleans’ competitive bid last winter to redevelop the former World Trade Center.
That redevelopment bid is being challenged in two lawsuits brought by one of the losing bidders, Two Canal Street Investors.
"Today's vote is a major victory for Four Seasons New Orleans and a significant step toward guaranteeing that future economic development projects won't be delayed by frivolous, self-serving litigation," Beuerman said in his email. "In committee and floor votes in both the House and the Senate, state legislators overwhelmingly understood the imperative of removing meaningless but time consuming and costly barriers to this project and others that will produce badly needed jobs and tax revenues. We are grateful to State Senator Conrad Appel and State Representative Raymond Garofalo for their leadership in sponsoring this legislation and to their colleagues for their wisdom in overwhelmingly approving this bill."
Neither the New Orleans Davillier Law Group, which represents Two Canal Street Investors, nor a spokesman for New Orlean's Mayor Mitch Landrieu could be reached by the Louisiana Record for comment.
"We are also deeply appreciative of Mayor Landrieu for advancing this important public policy and his commitment to making this transformative economic development project a reality," Beuerman said.
SB 447, in its original form, was specific to the city of New Orleans' public property development process and could have cost Two Canal Street Investors tens of millions of dollars to maintain its lawsuits over the World Trade Center project. During its time in the House, lawmakers modified the bill, removing that provision and making other changes.
In particularly, the revised bill creates narrow time limits for appealing and challenging a bidding process in situations similar to New Orleans' attempt to redevelop the World Trade Center. Those time limits include how quickly such challenges would have to be tried, judgments rendered and appeals court decisions handed down.
The House vote on June 3 turned up 95 in favor, none against, with 13 state representatives absent.
With 37 "yeas," the Senate unanimously passed the revised bill on Sunday. Absent from Sunday's vote was Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-District 5), who is the chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party. She cast the lone nay vote against the original bill the first time the Senate voted on April 20. Peterson has not responded to repeated Louisiana Record requests for comment.
Sen. Wesley T. Bishop (D-District 4) also was absent from Sunday's Senate vote.
The state legislature's passage of the bill follows in the wake of Two Canal Street Investors' two lawsuits over the World Trade Center's development, both filed in Orleans Civil District Court. The older of the two lawsuits is against the city and New Orleans Building Corp while the second lawsuit names members of the real estate consulting team that advised the city in that process.
The lawsuit against the city and New Orleans Building Corp is scheduled to go to trial in Oct. 24.
The development of New Orleans' 33-story World Trade Center, located on the riverfront, was leased last year to the development team led by Carpenter & Co. of Massachusetts and Woodward Interests of New Orleans.