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Story Archives: Ethics reform advances in session
|Ethics reform advances in session|
Work continued in Baton Rouge this week on adopting Gov. Bobby Jindal's ethics reform proposals, as legislators from around the state met in special session to determine the shape of the rules that will govern the conduct of lawmakers and public servants.
In the House of Representatives, state Rep. Noble Ellington said he and his colleagues are making "serious progress" and noted the House passed House Bill 1, which establishes rules requiring elected officials and certain appointed state officials to declare their sources of income.
Ellington said the bill is now in the hands of the Senate, where he expected some changes would be made.
"I'm sure there will be some changes made when it arrives in the senate," Ellington said. "But I was on that bill as a co-author."
Ellington said the disclosure rules would require a number of appointed cabinet officials to disclose their sources of income. Also, HB-1 establishes a set of income-reporting ranges for elected representatives and appointed officials at all levels of government.
Ellington said that the measure was meant to provide easier reporting guidelines for the holders of smaller offices, but added the bill will ensure people know where their legislators stand.
State Sen. Francis Thompson said he expected most, if not all, of Jindal's ethics reform proposals will pass.
"For the most part, the governor's package is in good order," Thompson said. "When everything is said and done, I think we're going to come out of here with a very strong ethics package."
Thompson pointed to Senate Bill 1, which seeks to eliminate conflicts of interest by prohibiting lawmakers and other elected and appointed officials from doing business with state agencies.
Thompson said certain exceptions were made for individuals in certain lines of work such as farming, the legal field, education and the medical field.
"Those individuals will be held to a different standard, instead of a wholesale ban," Thompson said.
That means a medical doctor who is elected to the Legislature would be able to serve and still provide health care to individuals receiving state assistance. Also under SB-1, educators would be allowed to serve on appointed committees and in certain elected offices.
State Rep. Kay Kellogg Katz of Monroe said she the amount of public discourse surrounding Jindal's reform initiative highlighted the importance of the proposals.
"All of these discussions are simply to try and make a bill better, to clarify things," Katz said. "I think it's obvious that the will of the people is that we want to give everybody a good impression of our state."
Katz noted ethics reform was one of the pivotal promises of Jindal's campaign and said voters have made it clear they want to clean up the state's image.
"We want to have transparency in our dealings," Katz said. "I think we have achieved that with the disclosure bill that came out of the house. Members of the Legislature will have to show their income."
Katz said the disclosure rules and laws governing conflicts of interest were strict, but necessary. Katz added many people would not want to publicize their incomes to their neighbors, but said that should be part of the price of serving in office.
"There is enormous responsibility when one is working in public service," Katz said.