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|Ethics session pays off for Louisiana|
Gov. Bobby Jindal, his administration and a host of state legislators who exhibited a commitment to changing the way Louisiana conducts its business should be commended for a job well done in light of the conclusion of the special legislative session on ethics reform.
Earlier this week, Jindal signed into law legislation state lawmakers passed during the two-week special session on ethics, which adjourned last week.
Among the new laws singed by Jindal, which take affect in the very near future, were caps on the amount of money lobbyists can spend on members of the Legislature, prohibitions on public officials doing business with the state and personal financial disclosure requirements aimed at lawmakers and other public officials who hold influential positions in state government. Also, the Legislature reigned in the routine of members receiving free tickets to special events and the like, which smacked of preferential treatment at its worst.
The intent of the ethics reform legislation advocated by Jindal was aimed at curtailing less than pristine behavior by some elected officials and some lobbyists in Louisiana. Furthermore, Jindal said he wanted to send a message to America that Louisiana was serious about cleaning up its act, or reforming the manner in which we operate state government here.
Jindal and the Legislature were successful on those two fronts, though some observers of Louisiana politics feel the reform measures could have taken a harder line in personal financial reporting methods for members of the Legislature.
Literally within hours of the close of the special session, a good-government watchdog group—the Center for Public Integrity—praised Jindal's and the Legislature's work.
The CPI recognized Louisiana for moving from near the bottom in ethics in government among the 50 states in the country to one of the best.
Not long after the CPI released its take on the ethics reform session, The New York Times published a favorable news article on Jindal, highlighting his efforts to remake the state's image in the face of some stiff opposition among some legislators and some special interest groups that favored the status quo.
While it is not often that we agree with anything The Times publishes, the newspaper got it right for a change.
For years, Louisiana has held the dubious distinction as a bastion of corruption in politics. That honor, for the lack of a better word, was well earned.
At the very least, though, the ethics reform measures approved by lawmakers will alter the behavior of the Legislature as a whole. Also, the ethics session certainly played well in the eyes of people throughout the United States who may have written off Louisiana as a lost cause.
Yet, we would be remiss if we did not point out that the Legislature—regardless of the governor's intentions—cannot legislate behavior, and it cannot legislate morality.