By Jeff Adelson
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, is calling on state lawmakers to abandon a proposal that could allow the Legislature to redirect fines from the Deepwater Horizon disaster to projects unrelated to coastal restoration.
The measure, approved by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, was tacked onto House Bill 812, which would call for a referendum on a constitutional amendment directing all the fines the state receives as a result of the spill to the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund.
"The reason we have fought so strongly to dedicate the BP fines to the Gulf Coast states is to ensure that those monies are only spent on restoring the coast as well as the environmental and economic damage done by the Deepwater Horizon disaster," Scalise said in a statement released Wednesday. "Just as we've made it clear to our colleagues in Congress that the BP fines should not be used for unrelated spending in Washington, the Legislature needs to make it clear that RESTORE Act funds will not be used for unrelated spending in Baton Rouge."
Senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., are currently hammering out a final version of the RESTORE Act, which would provide a framework for distributing fines from the spill to the states impacted by the disaster.
The amendment adopted by state senators Tuesday would allow some of that money to go to other uses with the approval of two-thirds of each chamber of the state Legislature. Lawmakers would have to specify how the money was being used and would not be able to use it for purposes that were prohibited by Congress or any settlement agreement related to the money.
Supporters of the original bill argued that adding that language would weaken the state's case for receiving the spill money.