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Having, eating cake describes Legislature ethics bill kill

I guess I should have stayed pessimistic instead of looking for a silver lining earlier today. Snatching death from the jaws of life, the Louisiana Legislature managed to kill meaningful ethics reform this afternoon.

HB 730 would have required, at a very minimum, every elected official in the state and then some except for some smallest jurisdictions to report for themselves and from immediate family members some broad categories of income in a process that likely would take 10 minutes to complete – done by state and local elected officials in almost 20 states already. After both houses basically unanimously agreed to versions that were not very different from each other, and three conferees from each chamber agreed on one compromise version, the House rejected the report and the Senate then refused to consider it.

Being so close to agreement, it’s hard to believe it would founder at the last minute. The official excuse given was that, from the House’s perspective, the conference’s stripping application to local elected office – even though both the entire Senate and House had agreed to that – made the bill unpalatable enough.

Removing that procedure in conference appears to have come from conferee Democrat Senate Pres. Don Hines, as a kind of final “up yours” to the state of Louisiana before he is term-limited into a long overdue retirement. Author Democrat state Rep. Michael Jackson told the House he thought the Senate wouldn’t pass the conference version, therefore, even though it had previously, and just enough House members thought they would just as soon, as Jackson said, throw the baby out with the bathwater, in a narrow vote.

It seems so very odd that something the chambers had agreed upon without really any dissent should, on the final day of the session, suddenly become a deal breaker. Why did it out of the blue become a problem? And why would the House prefer to go with no loaf than half a loaf? Wouldn’t reporting requirements on legislators even without local officials be better than none?

Apparently not, and this surface logical disconnect fuels the notion that the fix was in all of the time, at least for enough legislators to cause its failure. Enough of them may have wanted to get a vote in showing they “cared” about higher ethical standards, but then House members could turn around and say they essentially killed the bill because it didn’t “do enough” by removal of the local official provision, while Senators got a free ride. Everybody’s for ethics reform, on the record – and yet there’s no change whatsoever.

This ridiculous ending only adds more tarnish to an already underachieving session – but (again straining to see a silver lining) maybe will cause even more disenchantment among the Louisiana people to elect candidates this fall that will bring about real reform in the near future.

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