A Long Time Coming


Governor Bobby Jindal swept into Louisiana’s top job with a pledge to clean up the notoriously corrupt state and has made good by spending his political capital on the passage of sweeping ethics reforms set to permanently change the culture of the Bayou State. Jindal’s arguments for the need for rapid ethics changes centered on the need to encourage businesses to invest in the state without requiring them to stuff the right person’s pockets. But the part that most sticks out for us at Sunlight is this:

“This is huge,” said D. W. Hunt, a veteran lobbyist at the Capitol. “This is a sea change. This will seriously, dramatically change things. The meta-theme is the transparency.”

Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, a good-government watchdog group, described the new bills as “a major change in the culture.”

“It’s a world of difference, particularly on the disclosure side, and the same thing with conflict-of-interest,” he said.

The new requirements will force all state legislators, as well as most other elected and appointed officials around the state, to disclose all sources of income, real estate holdings and debts over $10,000. (Judges are exempted.) Lawmakers and executive branch officials will no longer be able to get contracts for state-financed or disaster-related work. Lobbyists will also have to disclose their sources of income and will be limited to spending no more than $50 per elected official, per meal; splitting the tab, say among other lobbyists or legislators, will also be prohibited.

The new income disclosure requirements for legislators are comparable to those of Washington State, ranked first in the country by the Center for Public Integrity.

Gov. Jindal explained how Hurricanes Katrina and Rita influenced his decision to tackle ethics reforms stating that the destruction opened a window that "caused people to rethink how they wanted their social institutions to be designed, how they wanted services to be delivered, what kind of state they wanted to call home.”