30 May 2007

Floor action, May 30: HB 730

DID YOU KNOW?
HB 730 would provide minimal additional income disclosure for legislators. Rep. Michael Jackson the author said only legislator or spousal income above $250 from the state or gaming sources would be reported, and of any ownership of land over $5,000 in value, publicly- traded securities that do business in the state, any company owned 10 percent or more, any loan over $5,000, without having to give any exact or even approximate values.

Rep. Troy Hebert asked a number of hair-splitting questions, such as whether something owed in the course of a business meant the name of a creditor would be revealed. Hebert argues that a bill that would truly reveal potential conflicts would be much more expansive, said this was useful only as a starting point. Jackson said it was better than nothing (a stronger bill had been altered in committee), and told Hebert Louisiana’s low-ranked perception would improve somewhat even with this weaker bill.

Rep. Danny Martiny wondered why publicly-traded stocks and bonds had to be concluded. Jackson said some of them from the state would have an interest in what legislators do. Martiny also questioned the reporting of property which now could be revealed because of conveyance records, and wondered what it had to do with ethics. Martiny said it went too far and made a bad impression.

Rep. Willie Hunter wanted to know why spouses were included. Jackson patiently explained that a legislator might be influenced through spousal connections. Hunter wanted to know whether there was definitive proof this could happen. Jackson said he knew of none, but community property rules put the potential there. Hunter painted a scenario where a legislator could make a completely separate transaction from a spouse, and wondered where it was justified that one would have to report that connected to the other. Hunter claimed it violated what he said in the Constitution was a “right to privacy.” “What bidness is it of the Ethics Board for me to report something I’ve been playing around with for years?” he argued. Jackson reiterated it was a chance to show the general public of potential conflicts of interest. “It needs work” Hunter said.

Rep. Gary Smith offered an amendment to apply it to all elective offices. “If we’re serious about ethics, we need to be serious about it for everybody.” He reminded Rep. Jack Smith that legislators have no contract power and little discretionary spending power on their own, unlike other officials. Rep. William Daniel IV asked about fitting in appointed officials, and Smith said that was a good idea. Rep. Carl Crane wondered whether day trading in stocks would count; Smith hoped the authors would address that question.

Jackson opposed the amendment to try to place rules on officials outside of the Legislature. Rep. Don Cazayoux said local officials could regulate themselves. But Rep. Jeff Arnold said other officials had more potential for corruption. The amendment passed 80-18.

Rep. Jean-Paul Morrell then offered an amendment to apply the standards to the Ethics Board. Jackson said he didn’t like his seatmate’s amendment, but didn’t object to it. Then Rep. Cedric Richmond wanted to amend it to put in a phrase in the oath of office that the legislator would not act corruptly. Jackson objected, thinking it was nongermane. Speaker Joe Salter ruled it was. Richmond said legislation like this was perpetuating a stereotype, but then withdrew the amendment. “This bill crosses the line.”

Rep. Mert Smiley offered an amendment to speed up implementation from Jan. 1, 2008 to Aug. 15, 2007. The effect would be to apply it to candidates this fall. Jackson objected because they wanted to have it apply to future election cycles. It was adopted.

Daniel came back with an amendment to include all appointees anywhere. Jackson didn’t object.

Speaking against the bill, Rep. Charlie DeWitt said legislators shouldn’t have to put themselves and their families under a microscope. If voters didn’t like what they did, they could vote them out. Martiny called the question but Hunter objected and more legislators spoke. Rep. Lelon Kenney said legislators already made great sacrifices to serve and this would make it even more onerous on them.

Rep. Alex Heaton moved to table the bill. The motion failed 9-83. After Hunter expressed his displeasure once again, Cazayoux defended the bill by saying it reported in extraordinarily general ways that nevertheless gave the public useful information to the voting public. The bill passed 85-14.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sometimes perception is reality
Jackson to Martiny on HB 730

There isn’t a redneck in Rapides Parish that doesn’t know what I have or don’t have
DeWitt’s remarks on HB 730

THURSDAY: SB 52 and SB 98 are scheduled to be heard by the Senate Finance Committee.

1 comment:

James Sanders said...

This reminded me why I thought dewitt was such an idiot. I doubt there is this much squealing and squalling at the hog slaughtering pens in Dubuque. All in all a disgusting spectacle.