11 November 2005

Floor action, Nov. 11: HB 9, HB 51, HB 59

HB 9 author Rep. Eric LaFleur outlined this bill, which imposes additional reporting requirements on elected officials and some appointed officials and spouses on recovery-related contracts. But Rep. Peppi Bruneau (wearing a “Rebuild right” button) had an amendment to broaden the requirements.

He riffed off of LaFlaeur’s attempt at sarcasm about how somehow Louisiana politicians were more suspect ethically. He said Louisiana was different, practically an “autocracy,” because it operated by the “Louisiana Way” (coined by current jailbird but former Gov. Edwin Edwards). He said now that Louisiana was in the national spotlight, and the Louisiana Way was perhaps the “wrong” way. “We’ve got to start to functioning like others places,” he argued, and that his amendment brought the state closer to that.

But Speaker Joe Salter ruled the amendment, which went beyond officials and spouses, was nongermane (because existing law on reporting requirements dealt only officials and spouses). Bruneau sharply disagreed, saying germaneness was relevant to the bill, not to the session call. Further, he argued that on a recent similar occasion such an amendment was declared germane. But he did not challenge the ruling and the amendment automatically was withdrawn.

Yet Bruneau wasn’t done. He came back with another amendment, pointing out the language in the state ethics codes was “immediate family members” and used that language. Rep. Don Cazayoux said that wording did deviate from requirements for legislators. Bruneau countered that for the rest of the covered people, it did. A number of speakers objected in whole and in part to the amendment. But this amendment did past muster both in germaneness and in vote, winning 93-7.

The final bill, whose changes are marginal at best, was the subject of debate for over an hour-and-a-half. Throughout, several members kept objecting to it on the grounds, particularly because of Bruneau’s amendment, that it created too complex requirements. Twice members asked to return it to the calendar. It passed 84-20.

Bruneau would be back with his HB 51 which would impose a prohibition on activities in HB 9, but withdrew it because he knew its germaneness would be challenged (item #6 of the call referred only to reporting). And then the voting fraud-encouraging HB 59 by Jalila Jefferson-Bullock was sent back to the calendar.

THE GOOD: SB 95 by Walter Boasso combines the southeastern levee boards into one regional board. This would facilitate efficiency and coordination in flood protection efforts.

THE BAD: HB 157 by John Alario would allow debt to be issued for continuing operations of the state. This is a dangerous thing to do, especially when sensible cuts can be made to the budget. The state tried this15 years ago and is still digging out from under this debt.

SATURDAY: HB 140 and HB 157 are scheduled to be heard by the House Appropriations Committee.

“’Dictate’ keeps coming up over and over again [in the constitution and laws] … you’d think we’re in a fascist state…. You lawyers will say we can reasonably disagree, except there’s no such thing as a ‘reasonable’ lawyer.”
Bruneau, arguing for his amendment to HB 9.

“What is your present marital status; it’s hard to keep up with it?”
Rep. Ernest Wooton, recent convert to the Republican Party, during the debate on Rep. Troy Hebert’s amendment to HB 9. Hebert then asked, “Can I get a ruling on the germaneness of this?”

“This amendment is just technical – it guts the whole bill”
Cazayoux jokingly suggested with his amendment to HB 9.

Hebert: “We’re not crooks with federal dollars, but we’ve got a bunch of crooks with state dollars. Is that the message we’re trying to send?”
LaFleur: “I hope Washington isn’t watching this debate”
Hebert: “I hope they are, to see this farce.”

“Our world-famous Ethics Board, which should be in ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not?’”
Rep. Warren Triche, before he ripped into what he termed the selective enforcement practices of the agency, calling it discriminatory and lacking integrity: “some of them ought to leave their meetings with their hands up”

“What have we done for the past two hours to help people recover from the hurricanes?”
Rep. Cedric Richmond, complaining about HB 9 that he said was unnecessary to prove that Louisiana officials were honest, to scattered applause.

Total House introductions: 158; total Senate introductions: 95.

Total House good bills: 5; total Senate good bills: 6.

Total House bad bills: 11; total Senate bad bills: 3.

Total House good bills heard in committee: 3; total Senate good bills heard in committee: 2.

Total House bad bills heard in committee: 5; total Senate bad bills heard in committee: 2

Total House good bills passing committee: 3; total Senate good bills passing committee: 1.

Total House bad bills passing committee: 1; total Senate bad bills passing committee: 0

Total House good bills passing House: 1; total Senate good bills passing Senate: 0

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