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.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, surprised few in the Hub City Wednesday afternoon when he made (semi) official what most of us have known for months: He is running to replace Joey Durel as city-parish president.
Louisiana's first black Republican state senator since Reconstruction — who was a Republican before he was a Democrat before he was a Republican again — is accusing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of using the black community for votes and providing nothing in return.
LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
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Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
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The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
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February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
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Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
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“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.