- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. Kathleen Blanco yesterday abandoned, for now, her push to shrink New Orleans’ government after the proposal ran into strong opposition during a special legislative session on hurricane relief.

“I know there’s a resistance to change. It’s very hard to get a focus on reform,” said Mrs. Blanco, a Democrat, acknowledging that she has given up on the legislation this session.

The measure by House Speaker Joe Salter, a Democrat, would have consolidated the city’s century-old network of two elected sheriffs, two elected clerks of court and two court systems. It passed the House overwhelmingly and was scheduled for a hearing yesterday in a Senate committee.

But Mr. Salter told the committee chairman that he did not want a hearing on the bill. He said the measure did not have enough support in the committee, and that “I decided there was no point to waste anybody’s time.”

Another bill by Mr. Salter, to reduce the city’s tax assessors from seven to one, failed in a House committee that includes two lawmakers related to New Orleans assessors.

Mrs. Blanco continues to press other proposals, including a measure to consolidate Louisiana’s levee boards under state control.

New Orleans lawmakers have fought the government merger proposal, saying Mrs. Blanco and legislators were attacking the city at its weakest, when thousands of its residents were displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and were sending out a signal that New Orleans always would be a smaller city than it was before the storm.

Supporters of the measure said it would make the city more efficient and take into account the reduction in population.

Mrs. Blanco said she would consider backing a similar New Orleans consolidation measure in the next legislative session, which begins in March.

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