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.
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.