- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - East Baton Rouge city-parish officials have learned that nearly one in four of their employees live somewhere else.

That’s an alarming figure, said Metro Council member C. Denise Marcelle, one of the members proposing a residency requirement.

“We need to send a clear message,” she told The Advocate (https://bit.ly/1fNrAeH).

One Baton Rouge police officer lives in St. Bernard Parish in Chalmette. An auditor in the Finance Department lives in St. Tammany Parish in Mandeville. An airport supply manager lives in Crosby, Miss., and a City Court law clerk lives in Jefferson Parish in Kenner.

Marcelle wants the government to require employees who live outside the parish to move within a specific number of years or risk losing their jobs.

However, she says the proposal is still being worked on, and she doesn’t know what form it will take.

More than 1,100 city-parish employees live outside the parish line, including a dozen who live outside Louisiana. The numbers don’t include employees of the Sheriff’s Office or the parks system, which are managed separately.

The recent debate over employee residence began as a battle over people living outside the Baton Rouge city limits and was largely retaliation against efforts to create a new city in the unincorporated southern part of the parish.

Marcelle said the residency data, which she requested, has broadened her focus beyond the city limits.

The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office requires its employees to live in the parish, and New Orleans requires new hires to live in the city.

Nationally, policies that require residency as a condition of government employment have been on the decline in recent years, with some states going as far as barring local government bodies from implementing such policies.

Marcelle said the employee data figures were worse than she had expected.

“They go home to Livingston Parish in Gonzales, and they shop there. They don’t shop here,” Marcelle said. “We’re not benefiting as a city or parish from them living there, so we have to do something to stop this from going forward.”

Metro Council members who opposed the Baton Rouge residency requirement called it shortsighted and unfair to parish residents who live in Baker, Zachary, Central and the unincorporated areas.

Metro Councilman Trae Welch said he still opposes the idea, even if it wouldn’t affect his constituents.

“We have to stop looking at ourselves as a bunch of small areas and start embracing ourselves as regions,” he said. “We’re regional, and we’re all in this together.”


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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