Student claims hike needs legislative approval

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU needed the Legislature's OK before
it raised the price of football tickets, a third-year law student
claims in a suit filed in state district court.

All fee increases must be approved by two-thirds of the
Legislature, claims Donald Hodge Jr.'s suit against the LSU Board
of Supervisors, which approved the increase in August.

Hodge could not be reached for comment. The case was assigned to
state District Judge Janice Clark.

The state attorney general found in 1996 that, for universities,
the provision cited by Hodge applies only to tuition and other fees
directly related to education, board attorney Ray Lamonica said.

Under Hodge's reading, LSU would have to get a two-thirds vote
of the Legislature every time it wanted to raise the price of books
in the Student Union, Lamonica said.

The sentence in question is: "Any new fee or civil fine or
increase in an existing fee or civil fine imposed or assessed by
the state or any board, department, or agency of the state shall
require the enactment of a law by a two-thirds vote of the elected
members of each house of the Legislature."

In 1996, the attorney then representing the board asked the
attorney general's office whether charges for food services,
bookstore merchandise, medical or veterinary services, student
housing and admittance to extracurricular events fit the
constitution's definition of a "fee."

The attorney general's opinion said no, that applies only to
fees that deal directly with the primary service provided by a
government body.

"The Louisiana State University system is created and exists
for the sole purpose of providing public higher education to the
citizens of this state," the opinion says. "This is its
governmental function."

"Any charges which are for services or products which are not
directly a part of the delivery of an education are not considered
fees," the opinion says.

The increase in ticket prices, which LSU calls a "donation,"
goes into effect for the 2004 football season. Season tickets will
cost $252, or $36 for each of the seven home games.

However, fans must pay another $85 to $400, depending on
location, for the right to buy one of the 45,197 season tickets.

LSU officials expect to raise $14.5 million annually from the
ticket hike.

The Board of Supervisors approved the ticket increase by a 15-1
vote. LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman has said the football
ticket increase is needed to keep LSU athletic facilities on par
with other universities. Part of the money will go toward expanding
Tiger Stadium.