09 February 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- Prefiled bills thorugh Feb. 9, 2008

(Note: even as prefiling has kicked off for bills for the 2008 regular session, the Log will not report on these during the course of the special sessions. Therefore, as things stand that means the first analysis of prefiled bills for the regular session looks to appear right before it begins.)

Welcome to coverage of the 2008 First Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature. The subject area is quite narrow and the areas of controversy are not many, so let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly of the prefiled bills. Actually, because the subject matter is so narrow and needed, almost all of the bills filed are good, so only the most crucial – that is, the ones likely to cause the most controversy – will be listed, while there are a few truly bad bills whose purpose is to subvert the intent of the session.

THE GOOD: HB 3 by Speaker Jim Tucker would put the same reporting requirements on judges as any other elected official (similar bill: HB 47). Tucker’s HB 12 would not allow legislators who have a potential conflict of interest in a matter relative to a floor vote to cast a vote on that matter (similar bill: SB 5) His HB 16 would tremendously restrict any state elected or appointed high official from receiving something of value to lobby another part of government, both during their tenure and for a year after (similar bills: SB 2, SB 44). Rep. Simone Champagne’s companion HB 19 (similar bills: HB 46, HB 48, SB 17) and HB 20 (similar bills: HB 45, HB 51, SB 15) call for forfeiture of any state monies that go to an elected official’s pension if that person is convicted of committing certain felonies related to performance in office, even those committed before the enacting of the amendment and bill. HB 40 by Tucker would prevent using campaign funds to pay immediate family members for services. SB 19 by Sen. Ben Nevers would prohibit any lobbyist expenditures on behalf of legislators. SB 33 by Sen. Bob Kostelka would force anybody owing ethics fine to pay up before qualifying as a candidate for election.

THE BAD: HB 35 by Rep. Cameron Henry tries to combine HB 19 and HB 20 to some degree. While this approach might make it more difficult to undo reforms, it creates a clumsy amendment that may encourage people to vote against it. HB 38 by Rep. Juan LaFonta would attack free speech rights by not allowing contributors to the campaign of a winning gubernatorial candidate or their family members from being appointed to boards and commissions (similar bills: SB 23, SB 25). SB 20 by Nevers would reduce democratic choice and serve no useful purpose ethically in prohibiting current elected officeholders from running for another office.

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