10 April 2006

Floor action, Apr. 10: HB 850

DID YOU KNOW (even if we wish we didn’t)?
A sad note: Rep. John Alario’s wife died Sunday night. Practically speaking, it will cancel House committee meetings and the session on the day of her funeral services, Wednesday.

Rep. Gary Beard’s HB 850 would outlaw campaign contributions from somebody involved in disaster rebuilding to an official who gave him a contract that was negotiated and not bid out. The prohibition would be for three years. He was at pains to say it had to be a person entering into the contract for it to apply, not an entity of elected officials. Rep. William Daniel thought it did apply to entities, which Beard insisted it did not. Daniel said the Legislature had dealt with a design-build contract, but Beard corrected him by saying it Legislature gave the authority to pursue the contract, but did not enter into the contract.

Rep. Taylor Townsend argued the bill was unnecessary since already laws revealed who was giving contributions, so it was too limiting to prevent contributions. He also tried to connect the Legislature in its duties as having a “direct supervision” over contracts of agencies it had oversight over, which would then prohibit contributions to legislators. Beard pointed out contracts never come under direct Legislative supervision. He also asked “Where’s the need for this?”

Rep. Charlie DeWitt suggested expanding it, saying why should it be all right only “during hurricane time.” Yet he turned argumentative when Beard rejected his suggestion of returning the bill to the calendar to add the revision, with Beard suggesting DeWitt putting forward his own bill. Rep. Hollis Downs also took him up on it. Beard said he had no objection, but his main purpose was to show the nation that Louisiana was a good steward of recovery funding.

Rep. Cedric Richmond said this was “criminalizing” certain contributions when no crime necessarily had been committed. Beard said it was more important to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Richmond said he was bothered by legislators having to say “we don’t steal” all the time. In closing, Beard repeated this was for the sake of reform and “good government.”

The bill passed 62-31.

I can’t really convey this one in a manner that is understandable if you didn’t actually hear it, but Rep. Warren Triche said he was unable to bring up when scheduled HB 783 which regulates import of non-indigenous constrictor snakes because of something to do with animal control personnel being swallowed by a snake and his inability to shoot it.

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