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Louisiana Governor to Appoint Interim Leadership

Governor Jeff Landry to appoint interim leadership for St. George, paving the way for the city's inaugural election on November 5, 2024.

BATON ROUGE, La. — The long-standing legal battle over the incorporation of the City of St. George has reached a pivotal turning point as the Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the initiative, clearing the way for the formation of the city.

Following nearly five years of legal disputes, the state's highest court voted 4-3 to overturn previous rulings that had stymied St. George's incorporation efforts. This decision, according to proponents, sets the incorporation's effective date as November 23, 2019, aligning with the Supreme Court's reversal of the Appeals Court decision.

St. George's original spokesperson, Lionel Rainey, celebrated the victory, emphasizing resilience in the face of opposition. "If you ignore the haters and refuse to quit, anything is possible. Never, ever, ever give up," Rainey remarked.

Per Louisiana law, Governor Jeff Landry is now tasked with appointing an interim Mayor for St. George, along with five council members. Subsequently, the first election will be determined by the appointed leadership. The earliest possible date for this election is November 5, 2024, coinciding with the upcoming primary.

Moreover, the resolution of the incorporation dispute allows the annexation lawsuit to proceed, which had been on hold pending the Supreme Court's decision. Annexations filed after November 2019 are now in jeopardy, although certain areas, such as the Mall of Louisiana and L'Auberge Casino, remain excluded from this particular legal action due to their earlier annexation into Baton Rouge.

Expressing optimism about St. George's potential contribution to East Baton Rouge Parish, incorporation co-chairmen Norman Browning and Chris Rials emphasized their desire for collaborative governance. They stated, "It is our genuine desire that Mayor-President Broome accept the will of the voters that St. George be governed as a separate municipality."

The protracted legal battle dates back to 2019, when East Baton Rouge Parish voters approved the formation of St. George, prompting resistance from Baton Rouge city leaders, including Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. Despite initial setbacks in lower courts, the case eventually reached the Louisiana Supreme Court in January.

Situated in the southeastern part of East Baton Rouge Parish, St. George, with an estimated population of 86,000 residents, is poised to become Louisiana's fifth-largest city.

At the heart of the legal dispute was the clarity of the petition enabling voters to decide on St. George's incorporation. While opponents argued that the petition lacked clarity regarding city services, supporters maintained that it provided sufficient information for voters to make an informed decision.

Critics of the incorporation expressed concerns about its potential financial impact on Baton Rouge and parish services, with some alleging racial motivations behind the initiative. They argued that St. George's formation could exacerbate racial disparities by diverting tax revenue from predominantly Black areas.

The St. George movement originated in 2010 with efforts to establish a local independent school district and evolved into a campaign for cityhood. Despite initial setbacks, organizers persevered, citing dissatisfaction with existing governance structures and public services.

With the Louisiana Supreme Court's ruling marking the conclusion of the legal proceedings, the city-parish faces limited avenues for further appeal, signaling a definitive step forward for St. George's incorporation.

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