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Committees ready for Jindal to strengthen diluted bills

The perceived amount of success of the Louisiana Legislature’s special session devoted to ethics matters not just in substantive terms of what comes out of it, but in symbolic terms for the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration. This is why we can expect to see over the next couple of days a lot of unwinding of loopholes to stronger ethics legislation added by legislators in bills.

While Jindal chose not to go for the titanium standard in ethics, he did reach for the gold standard but the defeat of a couple of key bills plus riddling others have reduced the haul to a silver standard at best (which, admittedly, is vastly improved over the lead standard that currently exists). But not only is a higher standard inherently desirable, but for his future purposes Jindal would like to be credited with as much success as possible as that will make him able to project more power to achieve other things.

So far, in the appointment of conference committees for legislation that has passed both house but not in identical form – comprised of three members of both chambers where two from each delegation must approve – they have been stacked with administration supporters, generally chamber leaders and chairmen of respective Governmental Affairs committees. Several other bills wait for chamber concurrence, most waiting on the Senate to deal with House changes so several more such committee may appear.

If Jindal is serious about maximizing influence over the final products, he will cajole the appointees into stripping most of the exceptions – and it appears he’ll have the votes to do so on these committees present and potential. That will throw the bills back into both chambers in a “take-it-or-leave-it” scenario, daring legislators not to pass them even as public opinion appears solidly in favor of these measures and many legislators ran with ethics reform as a major part of their campaign.

There is risk: defeats would reduce Jindal’s power headed into an anticipated special session where Jindal will need to throw a lot of weight around on fiscal reform. But chances are enough legislators want these measures even if not entirely to their liking and/or need them to fulfill campaign promises, so this gamble should pay off.

If there’s one thing Jindal could have learned form former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ forays to Nevada, it’s that to win big you have to play big. Jindal needs to play big as the session reaches its end.

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