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Gov. Landry Vetoes Sen. Barrow's Bill to Enhance Nexus Louisiana Governance

Updated: Jun 23

Photo courtesy of Nexus Louisiana.
Photo courtesy of Nexus Louisiana.

Gov. Jeff Landry has vetoed a significant legislative proposal by Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, aimed at improving the governance of Nexus Louisiana, an organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs. Initially focused on addressing sickle cell anemia, the bill evolved to propose reforms to the Research Park board of directors, which oversees Nexus Louisiana.

Sen. Barrow's intention with the bill was to streamline the board’s operations and enhance its effectiveness by downsizing and diversifying its membership. “The board can benefit from a few structural changes, including downsizing,” Barrow previously stated. Her goal was to create a more agile board capable of making swift decisions and providing robust oversight, thereby strengthening Nexus Louisiana’s mission to support entrepreneurship and innovation across the state.

The proposed changes included reducing the board size from nine to 12 members to seven to nine and limiting business sector representation from seven members to two. These adjustments aimed to balance representation and ensure a broader range of perspectives on the board, fostering a more inclusive and effective governance structure.

Despite the bill's noble intentions, it faced criticism from some quarters. Sen. Franklin Foil, D-Baton Rouge, expressed concerns that the changes could weaken the board. "I had asked the governor to veto the bill on behalf of several of my constituents. We thought the changes weakened the mission of the organization. It took business people off the board," Foil said.

During the final days of the legislative session, the bill was modified in a House Committee on Health and Welfare meeting, where references to the Louisiana Sickle Cell Commission were removed. This refinement was seen by supporters as a strategic move to maintain the bill’s focus on improving Nexus Louisiana’s governance without diluting its core objectives.

Nexus Louisiana is currently undergoing a significant transition, with the board in the process of selecting a new CEO following the departure of longtime executive Genevieve Silverman due to a budget shortfall influenced by market conditions. Calvin Mills, a management consultant for Nexus Louisiana, has openly expressed his interest in the CEO position, reflecting his commitment to the organization’s future.

Anita Byrne, president of the Nexus Louisiana board, has been a steadfast advocate for the organization’s mission. She reaffirmed their dedication, stating, “We will continue to do the work that has been given to us, which is to support entrepreneurs and tech innovation.” Byrne’s leadership has been crucial in navigating this transitional period and ensuring the organization's stability and ongoing support for entrepreneurs.

The Research Park Corporation’s latest audit, issued in October 2023, reported nearly $18.3 million in total assets, down from just over $23 million in 2021. In 2022, the organization's assets included $16.5 million in investments. Its November 2023 Form 990 revealed a revenue of $2,578,258 in 2022, primarily from unspecified contributions and grants.

Sen. Barrow’s efforts underscore her commitment to fostering a dynamic and supportive environment for Louisiana’s entrepreneurs. Despite the legislative setback, her focus on structural improvements aimed at ensuring Nexus Louisiana remains a vital resource for the state’s business community. Likewise, Anita Byrne's steadfast leadership continues to guide the organization through challenging times, emphasizing their shared goal of promoting entrepreneurship and innovation.

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