Are you keeping your New Year's resolutions?|
Story Archives: Is Louisiana serious about ethics reform?
|Is Louisiana serious about ethics reform?|
It came as no surprise that Gov. Bobby Jindal unveiled an ambitious plan for state lawmakers to consider beginning Sunday when they convene in a special session to deal with ethics reform.
Throughout the 2007 gubernatorial campaign Jindal promised that one of his first acts as governor would entail calling a special session aimed at reforming the way we operate state government in Louisiana. Throughout the transition period, or from the moment he was declared the winner of the governor's race on election night in October until the time he took the oath of office in January, Jindal repeated his intentions to call an ethics session.
Obviously, Jindal wasn't bluffing.
Composed of some 60 items, Jindal's call, or agenda, for the special session touches on every one of the major points he campaigned on over the past two years.
It's broad in scope and detailed, too.
If that makes any sense.
Whether it's beefed up financial disclosure laws for elected officials, prohibiting legislators from doing business with the state or campaign finance reform, Jindal's ethics reform package should please every do-gooder interest group in Louisiana. Collectively, the do-gooders have hollered for years for someone to do something to improve the state's image in the eyes of the people from sea to shining sea.
They got their wish.
Or they have a governor who's willing to attempt ethics reform instead of paying lip service to it.
What was surprising prior to Jindal calling the special session—in the days thereafter, too—was the behavior of some organizations, or interest groups, that have a long history of not getting too excited about reforming state government here.
Those folks, or those organizations, include the Louisiana Assessors' Association, the Louisiana District Attorneys' Association, the Louisiana Municipal Association and the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association.
Not only are those organizations supporting Jindal's ethics package, they've embraced it.
Publicly, at least.
It's not being suggested the aforementioned associations, or their members in general, haven't supported ethics reform in the past. They simply haven't had their feet held to the fire to do it.
It's unclear how forceful Jindal was in convincing the various associations in question to support his stab at reform. Suffice it to say the associations and their leaders were told to get on board the ethics reform bandwagon or rue the day they opposed it.
In some corners, or in some states, that tactic could be described as extortion.
We're talking about Louisiana, though, where a clean state government—on the surface at least—is a novel idea.
Or an idea that comes along every 30 years or so.
Yet, the real test facing Jindal in the coming weeks concerning ethics reform has nothing to do with doing what's right or what will pass constitutional muster.
The real test concerns that thing called the democratic process, or convincing the House of Representatives and the state Senate to approve an ethics reform package Jindal favors.
Yes, there exists some legislators who would like to see ethics reform die a slow death. They are the same folks who have benefited from the so-called good old boy network. They appear to be happy as well with Louisiana being labeled as one of the worst states in America to live and work.
Had those folks spent one-half as much time trying to better Louisiana in lieu of thwarting its progress over the years, there wouldn't be any need for ethics reform.
Instead, ethics reform is needed now.
Jindal knows it. Let's hope he can convince the Legislature to embrace it.
At the very least, we would like to think the day is long past when the people of Louisiana tolerate the use of public office for ill-gotten gains. If there are any of those folks left in the Legislature, who ran for office hoping to profit from some kind of slush fund or some silent contractual relationship with the state, they could do us all a service by tendering their resignations now.