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Story Archives: Lawmakers pass reform legislation
|Lawmakers pass reform legislation|
As Gov. Bobby Jindal's special legislative session on ethics reform drew to a close on Tuesday, area legislators called the session a success.
State Sen. Neil Riser applauded lawmakers for swiftly passing a pair of bills requiring legislators to disclose sources of income and limiting the activities and expenditures of lobbyists.
"We have fulfilled what we said we were going to do according to the governor's call," Riser said.
Lawmakers were called into a special session shortly after Jindal took office with a charge of reforming the set of laws governing the way legislators and other government officials conduct personal business and handle their official duties.
Among the reforms passed by the Legislature during the two-week special session were the cornerstones of Jindal's ethics reform initiatives, known to lawmakers as House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1.
HB-1 requires legislators, the governor, certain cabinet officials and elected officials representing populations greater than 5,000 to disclose all sources of income.
SB-1 prohibits legislators and certain appointed officials from doing business with the state of Louisiana.
SB-1 contains some exceptions for those serving in the medical field, certain types of legal practices, and education.
Riser also noted lawmakers had adopted a spending cap on registered lobbyists and the amounts they can spend wining and dining legislators.
Under the law adopted by legislators Tuesday, legislators would not be able to accept meals in excess of $50 per day.
"That's been long overdue," Riser said.
State Rep. Noble Ellington called the session a resounding success his colleagues in the House of Representatives and Senate had worked "very hard" to make sure new ethics rules did not have unintended consequences.
"I had said at the start let's not do something where if you accidentally made a mistake in some report you automatically become a criminal," Ellington said.
Ellington said he hoped the Louisiana judicial system would move quickly to adopt similar ethics reforms.
Judges had been originally included in the ethics reform package but an amendment to the various laws removed judges from the state laws. Instead, judges said they would handle their own ethics reform rules.
Ellington said he did not expect legislators to suffer too much because of a provision in the lobbyist caps that forbids legislators from accepting free tickets to sporting and cultural events.
"I recall over 20 years receiving very few free tickets to anything," Ellington said. "But we've taken care of that by making sure there are no free tickets to athletic events."
Ellington said the ticket ban was so contentious because it could have meant legislators who were invited to speak at community events would be required to purchase tickets to speak.
As the law currently stands, such invitations would be permissible.
With the special session on ethics winding to a close, legislators will next turn their attention to a projected $2 billion surplus.
Jindal is expected to call legislators back into a special session focusing on the best uses for those funds. That session is expected to begin within two weeks of the conclusion of the special session on ethics reform.