So how do legislators manage to look like they're pushing ethics reform while still retaining opportunities to line their pockets?
"It's because there's no great public outcry," says Dr. Bryan-Paul Frost, an adjunct professor of philosophy at UL Lafayette who has taught courses on ethics and politics. "Ethics are not a tangible sort of issue," Frost says. "They don't immediately affect voters like taxes or other things."
People should be clamoring for ethics reform, says Jim Brandt, president of the Public Affairs Research Council, a nonprofit group that monitors the activities of state government. Brandt doesn't dole out high grades to the Legislature for its handling of ethics issues over the past few months.
"We were very disappointed there weren't more robust [ethics] reforms enacted during the regular session," he says. "There wasn't a whole lot that got done." While there have been strides made in recent years ' banning fundraising during sessions, tightening lobbying rules ' Brandt says every year brings a few steps backward.
For instance, Rep. Hunter Greene, a Baton Rouge Republican, filed legislation he later withdrew that would have allowed his friend Patrick Mockler, co-owner of Mockler Beverage, to sell beer to the Santa Maria Golf Course while Mockler was being considered for an appointment to the Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission, which oversees the course. And Jefferson Parish Rep. Steve Scalise's effort to abolish a little-known perk held by New Orleans area officials that allows them to pull people out of jail that have been charged with a municipal violation? That failed.
Brandt says lawmakers are also deft at procedural maneuvers that blunt efforts for change. The committees on governmental affairs in each chamber, both of which handle ethics measures, often won't allow a bill to reach a floor vote. "It seems as though they work in tandem," Brandt says, "or they pass something they know the other house will kill."
A bill prohibiting lawmakers from accepting free concert and sporting tickets from lobbyists and other interests was approved by the Senate, but it still had to face the House and Governmental Affairs Committee during the final weeks of the session, which "has been hostile to this type of ethics reform in the past," Brandt says.
Bills requiring more disclosure by certain agencies and offices didn't do much better. "It has not been a good session for sunshine," Brandt says, referring to the terminology for public records disclosure. A bill that would have required public statements from groups seeking state money met a quiet death during the session, as did a proposal that would have made public certain documents in the governor's office.
The latter example is the reason so many agencies want the cover of the executive branch. The exemption from public records law provides shade from the sunshine, says New Orleans Rep. Peppi Bruneau, who sponsored the legislation closing the loophole.
"That's why everyone wants to be in there," Bruneau lamented during a speech on the House floor earlier this month.
The reluctance of lawmakers to make sweeping changes is no surprise to Frost. "Very few people are willing to put restrictions on their own power, especially when they are the ones in power," he says.
The world is a politically tense place these days with hot spots ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. In Louisiana and Mississippi, where the political chessboard tends to be a lot less threatening and at times entertaining, this election season is living up to expectations.
American companies export smog; UN calls for cease-fire in Gaza; fist bump keeps germ transfer down and more national and international news for Monday, July 28, 2014.
Monday's Blogs from the Bog!
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.
Advocate columnist and Jindal shill Quin Hillyer has been against the New Orleans levee board lawsuit from day one, but a recent piece targeting author/activist John Barry prompted the perfect rebuttal from the board’s former vice-president, who takes Hillyer to task on just about every distorted claim he’s made on the issue.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010.