La. calls foul, sues FEMA

by Heather Miller

Louisiana claims in a lawsuit against FEMA that it's owed upwards of $2 million in reimbursements for election delays. The cash-strapped federal agency says otherwise.

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler is suing FEMA in an effort to recoup the money Louisiana was forced to spend on postponed elections following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. His rationale? What's good for the geese in Florida, New York and Mississippi is good for the Pelican State, too.

The Advocate reports that Schedler estimates Louisiana spent at least $1.7 million on postponed elections after the devastating 2005 hurricanes, and if you include the cost of replacing water-soaked voting machines, the figure rises to roughly $3 million.

Schedler points out in the lawsuit that Mississippi was reimbursed for election delays following the same 2005 storms, and Florida was given the same FEMA reimbursement following Hurricane Charley in 2004. According to Schedler, New York got the biggest chunk of FEMA change (almost $8 million) for preserving "the democratic process" after the 9-11 terrorists attacks in New York City:

Louisiana's secretary of state said in his suit that FEMA has twice rejected appeals of its original denial of the state's catastrophe-caused election costs.

In the suit, Schedler asked FEMA to "reimburse the state of Louisiana for the same reasons it reimbursed New York, Florida and Mississippi."

The suit, written by Assistant Attorney General William P. Bryan III, adds: "FEMA's denial of reimbursement shows extreme indifference to the citizens of the state of Louisiana."

FEMA offered no comment on the pending litigation, though the federal disaster agency has been outspoken in recent weeks about its dwindling coffers. FEMA reported less than $800 million in its bank account to cover the billions of dollars in damages on the East Coast caused by Hurricane Irene. And now additional funding for the agency has become yet another partisan political game in Congress that could stall immediate recovery needs for Irene's victims - as well as long-term projects along the Gulf Coast.

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