Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Shreveport Representative will walk to Baton Rouge

Shreveport Rep. Patrick Williams plans to draw attention to issues he believes are crucial to improving Louisiana by hitting the highway on foot. Just before the special legislative session on ethics ended Tuesday, Williams told the House of Representatives he'll sponsor a walk from Shreveport to the steps of the Governor's Mansion prior to the start of the regular legislative session March 31. He estimates it will take "about 10 days, maybe more."
Legislators passed a lot of bills during the ethics session, he said, but they will have little impact because "morality is something within. What we did was to satisfy people outside the state". "With the regular session, "now we have the opportunity to satisfy the people we're down here to represent," Williams said. He said he's sponsoring the walk to bring awareness to other issues the Legislature should tackle: reforming Louisiana's education, welfare and health care systems.

excerpt from The Times

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jindal's Grand Slam

Gov. Bobby Jindal has labeled his success “a grand slam” in the special legislation session on ethics that wrapped up this afternoon.The governor says he got more than 90 percent everything he wanted but “100 percent of what the state needed” to improve its image.

The Times

We still affirm what we wrote on election night:

No one seems to be able to see past the hoopla to the fact that Louisiana has once more gone hook, line and sinker for a slick packaged, smooth talking "reformer".

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Nod and a Wink Video

Louisiana Politics as usual - the more it changes, the more it stays the same.

Invonvenienced Streets

This was actually a headline in the online edition of The Times this morning. If you don't believe me, see for yourself.

Shreveport announces inconvenienced streets
February 25, 2008
The city of Shreveport engineer has announced the following inconvenienced streets for this week.
(then it lists the streets)

The article didn't say, but I'd be willing to wager that the buildings along that street were really angry.

Who in the world writes these headlines for The Times?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Friday Night Lights Shine Bright for Legislators

Thank you, Lord, for small mercies. I have really been in a state this week, fearful that our legislators might have to actually pay to attend a high school ball game or play. That fear has been alleviated, however, as the bill regulating free tickets passed the house today with amendments allowing the tickets as long as a registered lobbyist doesn't pay for them.

But wait - it doesn't just cover local school events.

A lege may have all the tickets to professional, semi-professional and collegiate sporting events, musical concerts and other entertainment venues as well as golfing, fishing or hunting outings that they can scrounge up - if a registered lobbyist is not paying.

If, however, you need tickets for a concert, say a Hannah Montana concert, no problem. Just don't get them from a registered lobbyist.

With another wink and nod from the Governor, the legislators have changed absolutely nothing. So fearful of losing their freebies, they fought tooth and nail and prevailed, and in all honesty, with very little opposition. The bill will go to the senate for consideration.

This is just one of the 'compromises' that has been achieved. We already covered the restrictions on doing business with the state. The bill was changed to say that if you don't actively take part in the management of your company, it's okay. You have until 2012 to wind it down.

Governor Jindal said in his victory speech: "Real ethics reform is not simply campaign rhetoric. It is the lynchpin for change, for regaining the confidence of the voters, for turning our state around. If and when folks try to stop it, I will call them out. If -- If and when people try to throw in amendments designed to derail ethics reform, I will call them out."

Governor, if you meant any part of what you said, it is time to start calling them out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hot Sauce With That?

I think of all the whining by legislators during this current session on 'ethics', my favorite is Representative Charmaine Marchand. Marchand objected to the $50 cap on a meal by saying "at $50, we're going to be eating at Taco Bell".

Will they go in and sit at one of those little tables that are so uncomfortable, or will they just hit the drive-through in the lobbyist's beamer and eat in the car?

While we're at it, Ms Marchand must have an insatiable appetite - $50 at Taco Bell will buy a lot of tacos!

Maybe it's the expensive wine that she'll miss, but she could still have her drink. A couple of six-packs of tacos and a bottle or two of Boone's Farm should fall well within the $50 limit. It is a sacrifice serving the public, and we thank Ms Marchand for her service.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No Free Tickets, No Loopholes . . .But

A house committee approved a 'free ticket' ban to sporting and cultural events today (I guess they finally figured out what 'sporting and cultural' meant).
Rep. Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans offered an amendment (read loophole) to allow lawmakers to accept tickets to local high school and charitable events, but withdrew it.

But . . .
Senate President Joel Chaisson, the bill's handler, said that he will work on an amendment (read loophole) to allow legislators to attend some local events when the bill is debated by the full House.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Roadblock: Loss of Free Tickets

Quote from Bobby Jindal in his victory speech on election night.
And some who've been feeding at the trough may not go quietly, but that is up to them. They can either go quietly or they can go loudly, but either way they will go.
Well Governor, they ain't going quietly!

From The Advocate
I've inserted my suggestions in red.

A bill that would do away with the freebie golf games and tickets that lawmakers and other elected officials can receive from lobbyists bogged down Monday in a House committee. Members of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee said they wanted to approve the bill, but they also wanted it to be clear what would be banned. For example, would they be able to attend high school basketball games in their districts for free? NO. Would they be able to go to chamber of commerce luncheons without paying? NO. What if they get offered free tickets from business colleagues, not in their roles as legislators?" Just for good measure, let's say NO. I don't want to have to come to the ethics board for an opinion every time I have one of these myriad of events," said Rep. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who said she gets free invitations to museum fundraisers, church events and other foundation events in her district.

Suggestion for Ms Peterson - if everyone else pays, YOU pay. If you were not in the legislature would you pay? Sure you would. Now you're in the legislature - PAY. My god, they are frightened witless at the prospect of paying for something. One more thing - church events? Such as what, bingo or a spaghetti dinner?
Dear Lord, this is embarassing.

Chaisson Suspends Debate - Lege's Don't Understand what "No Free Tickets" Means

Excerpt from The Times
. . . There’s no definition of either type of event (sporting or cultural) in the Code of Ethics, Kathleen Allen, attorney for the Ethics Board, told the committee, and because such tickets have always been exempt, there’s never been a ruling from the board on what should be included. Senate President Joel Chaisson, author of SB3, which already has cleared the Senate, agreed that “clarity has to be given,” so lawmakers will know exactly what can be accepted.Chaisson suspended committee debate on the bill so definitions can be developed “Guidance has to be given for those who want to stay in compliance,” he said.

Here's an idea - "no free tickets of any sort, type or description for any event of any sort, type or description, ever."
This is unbelievable - they truly don't get it. No more freebies. They just can't grasp the concept.

Observations on Ethics

New Republican Robert Adley of Benton, expressed himself on the current special session on ethics and the legislation that is being passed. "For the large part (it) is fluff to me."
Adley did suggest that his amendment to the ethics bill which calls for audits will be the most significant thing to come out of the session. According to the Senate website, Adley's amendment

1. Adds provisions requiring the audit of not less than 25% of the campaign finance reports required by law by the campaign finance supervisory committee.
2. Provides a grace period of the first 12 months audits are conducted before a fine or penalty will be imposed as the result of such initial audit.
3. Exempts such audits from the public records law.
Way to go sir, audit 25 members per year and then don't let the public know the results.

Senator Sherri Smith Cheek of Keithville says "There is a core group, a big core group, that has tried not to lose sight of the goal to implement something that does actually provide good information to the citizens." That's good as far as it goes, but what the citizens really want is a tough ethics law with tough enforcement, not just information.
(I wonder if it would affect senators who have the state police ferry Sugar Bowl tickets from Shreveport to New Orleans?)

Rep. James Morris of Oil City echoes the governor in saying that 'perception is everything.' Morris does go on to say "I'm for a system of soundness and good common sense".

Rep. Patrick Williams of Shreveport says "I pray that this is not just for show but to actually show Louisiana is a moral and ethical state — that we are here to do whatever is best for the people we represent." Rep. Williams gets it - unlike the Governor, The Speaker, Senator Alario and Representatives Badon and Arnold. It is about more than just following the letter of the law, it is about having the judgment to recognize that something is not right, such as using your position to give or receive 'freebies' even when you are debating outlawing the same.

Side Notes
In August, when campaigning, Jindal said "We cannot allow the good old boy network to run things anymore." That was a short lived outlook, of course. This administration has appointed as many 'connected' people to offices and advisory boards as any other. Just today, it was announced that Matt Parker is the new acting executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party. Parker is a brother-in-law of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff, Timmy Teepell. He was political director of Jindal’s campaign for governor.
James Quinn, the former state party director, recently went on the state payroll as Jindal’s director of State Boards and Commissions.

House Speaker Jim Tucker asked committee chairmen last week to put on hold any committee dinners during the ethics special legislative session.
Tucker was referring to the practice in which lobbyists wine and dine entire legislative committees.
Tucker said the request had nothing to do with the ethics session. “I was afraid we were going to be working late,” Tucker said .

Saturday, February 16, 2008

They Just Don't Get It

The special session on ethics has passed some bills. That's about the best you can say for them, they have passed some bills; watered down, key provisions cut out and escape clauses added. For instance, a legislator can't contract with the state starting now. If he already has a contract with the state, it can continue until 2012.

However, and it's a big however, a provision was added that will allow these contracts to continue if the legislator is not actively involved in the management of the company and is just a passive investor. As Bill Engvall says, here's your sign. Announce that you are not 'actively' involved in your company and you can do business with the state. The governor's website says that there will be 'no loopholes'. Sure looks like a loophole to me.

There are other compromises, and more to come, but that is not the main point of this post. The point is that it is still business as usual.

The Jindal campaign failed to file a disclosure form with the "Ethics" Board and probably will face a fine. A hearing is set for July. The Governor, however, immediately announced that the campaign would go ahead and pay a $2,500 fine. That's okay, except for two little details. You can't just sweep it under the rug by paying a fine, a hearing must be held and responsibility assigned. Initially, the administration blamed Timmy Teepell, now it's an 'undisclosed' employee of the campaign.
Second, in the governor's proposals for new legislation, he made it clear that fines must be paid by the individual responsible (in this case, Jindal), and not paid with campaign funds. No, it's not illegal at this point, but it looks bad. It is in the perception of what is happening. As Jindal told the Boston Globe, it is really more about perception than reality.
While we would like to see the reality of ethics, these clowns are not even giving the perception. They just don't get it.
This week it came out, after the legislature outlawed free tickets for sporting and cultural events for its members and other public officials, that Timmy Teepell and four members of the legislature had just received free 'Hannah Montana' tickets. The four legislators are Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, Senator John Alario, Representative Jeff Arnold, and Representative Austin Badon.
"Helping my granddaughters was an honorable thing for him to do," Sen. John Alario says. Senator Alario says he gave the Hannah Montana tickets to his granddaughters. "I didn't know who Hannah Montana was. I probably don't know her more than North Dakota. The request came from my granddaughters and certainly, I would honor their request," he says.
Senator Alario, I'm sure you're a good grandfather. Buy your tickets just as everyone else has to do – that would be much more ‘honorable’ than using your position to take advantage of freebies. That is what the legislation that you just passed was all about - making such things illegal and removing the perception that it is wrong. Call Ticketmaster next time.
It's all about perception, and they just don't get it. They probably never will.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ethics Legislation Hits Snags

Excerpt from The Advocate
Gov. Bobby Jindal's hallmark ethics bills have hit snags in the Legislature, with legislative leaders stalling two key proposals Thursday while they worked out compromises with lawmakers.
Bills that would require public officials to disclose how they make their money and ban lawmakers from contracts with state agencies were both scheduled for debate Thursday. But House Speaker Jim Tucker delayed a vote on the disclosure bill until Friday, and Senate President Joel Chaisson did the same with the contract ban measure.
The proposals are the centerpieces of a three-week special legislative session Jindal called to change Louisiana's ethics laws - which the governor said need to be strengthened to improve the state's image.
Tucker's bill would require lawmakers, statewide elected officials, executive branch department heads, judges and many local elected officials to provide information about how they earn their money and to whom they are indebted.
Chaisson, D-Destrehan, faced complaints from senators about his bill that would bar lawmakers and their spouses and family members from doing business with state agencies.
The measure would prohibit lawmakers, their spouses and their businesses from having contracts with state agencies, including those that are competitively bid through the public bid law process. It also would prohibit immediate family members of lawmakers from doing business with state agencies - unless the contract was competitively bid.
Senators said they worried the bill would exclude small businessmen and lawyers from running for office and should include the governor's staff and local elected officials.
"If we're talking about setting a new image for everyone, they have to be in this. They have more influence," said Sen. Cheryl Gray, D-New Orleans.
Meanwhile, both House and Senate committees have stalled a Jindal administration proposal to require candidates to list details of their donors' employers.
The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee approved without objection a separate bill sought by Jindal that would prohibit candidates for office from using their campaign funds to pay their family members.
House Bill 1 and Senate Bills 1, 31 and 34 can be found at

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jindal Administration Balks at Ethics Provision

A House bill requiring greater disclosure of business conducted in the governor’s office passed through committee today despite concerns about unintended consequences, such as “chilling” negotiations with industries considering locating in Louisiana.
The House and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the bill clearing the way for House discussion after author Rep. Wayne Waddell, R-Shreveport, agreed to work with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s staff to ensure concerns would be addressed.
In arguing for the proposal, Waddell said citizens have a right to know about the inner workings of their government.
“After all, it’s their money we’re spending,” said Waddell, speaking during the third day of a special session on ethics. “It’s not our money, it’s their money.”
Jimmy Faircloth, Jindal’s executive counsel, urged committee members to put off the bill, saying opening certain records in the governor’s office to public view could stunt economic growth. Worried trade secrets and other details could be released, prospective companies likely would consider locating elsewhere. It also could curb other relationships, such as those with legislators, he said.
Complete article at The Times

Ethics Panel waters down Bill

The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee approved six pieces of Jindal's package but not without some alteration. As expected, no problem with doing away with free tickets to athletic events. Hardly an earthshaking move.
On more solid ground, the panel approved SB1. SB1 is the bill that will prevent legislators from contracting with the state.
The ban will apply to any new contracts, but existing contracts won't be affected until 2012. At that time, the legislator involved must give up either the contract or his public office. Shreveport Senator Lydia Jackson (D), got the committee to amend the bill to exempt contracts by companies in which legislators have only "a passive ownership" by investing but not actively participating in their operations.
So to recap, if you currently have state contracts, you're okay for four more years. Get someone else to run your company, stay out of company operations and you can continue getting state contracts for years. (You have four years to get this done).
The bill will be debated by the full senate on Wednesday.
We were promised a gold standard; I don't think this one would make bronze.
We'll update more tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Jindal Speech on Ethics

This is the video of "Bobby" Jindal's speech last night opening the special session of the legislature. Below are also links to the text of the speech and also to the call for the special session which outlines his 60 points.

Text of Speech

Text of Proclamation calling special session

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Huckabee & Obama

Mike Huckabee took Louisiana for the Republicans last night, but couldn't get over that magic 50% mark in the presidential primary. McCain ran a close second. Everyone was afraid to predict this one, and I am mildly surprised that Huckabee pulled as much as he did.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, had a very comfortable win with 57% of the Dem vote. This was expected and predicted.
Tonight marks the start of the special session on ethics. The governor will address the legislature at 6:30 to kick it off. It will be broadcast statewide on PBS.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Primary Day

Louisiana, Washington, Nebraska and Kansas are holding primaries today. McCain has it sewed up, but Huckabee may pick up some votes in an effort to strengthen his bid for vice-president.
On the Democratic side, look for Obama to do well.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Rush: Jindal the next Reagan

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
(Alice in Wonderland)

He just said it on his radio show about three times. "Jindal is the next Ronald Reagan". Then he said he would "jump for joy" if McCain picked Bobby for Veep, but then lamented that Jindal is "probably too conservative for McCain".

Your Right Hand Thief

Here's what Rush said, straight from his website:

I'm going to give you a name that would make me jump for joy. It's not going to happen because he's not been...Bobby Jindal. I did an interview with Bobby Jindal. He is the next Ronald Reagan, if he doesn't change. Bobby Jindal, the new governor of Louisiana is the next Ronald Reagan. He's young. He was just sworn in for his first term. He's the guy that beat the liberal Democrat machine throughout Louisiana. He did it on 100% conservatism. We interviewed him for the Limbaugh Letter about three issues ago. In fact, I am hereby ordering the editrix of the Limbaugh Letter, Diana Schneider to make -- since it's a past issue -- the interview with Bobby Jindal in the Limbaugh Letter available at this afternoon. You can send it up to Koko as a PDF file or text or whatever you want. This guy could be the next Ronald Reagan. If McCain chose him, here's a southern state; this is Louisiana, but I think he may be too conservative for McCain. That depends on who they think McCain will need or want, but Jindal is very young, and he's only in his first year as governor and doesn't really have... He came from the House of Representatives. Also being talked about is Haley Barbour, the governor of Miss'ssippi, but it is said by those in touch with the conventional wisdom that Haley's got too many lobbyist ties for McCain. These are some of the names. There are others that I can't think of right off the top of my head, but they're out there. But I don't think it would be Newt.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Louisiana Ethics Special Session

The governor, as promised, has called a special session of the legislature to deal with ethics. In the proclamation, he outlined what he would like to see accomplished. Go here to read the proclamation.
This is a big roll of the dice for Jindal. We will know by the end of February if he will come out with the legislation that he wants, and in turn will have what he likes to call his mandate reinforced, or if he will walk away disappointed and disillusioned, Buddy Roemer style.
Some of the things he asks for will be passed promptly, without much opposition. There are several sticking points also.
Applying the rules to local elected officials had the ethics bill in the last session quashed by Robert Adley, who does business with municipalities. Adley at that time said “This whole thing has been a sham, hiding behind local government. (We) “worked very hard to put together a disclosure package for legislators and it’s not our job to sit here and pass it on to local government.” This is at odds with the current governor, who believes that indeed it is the job of the legislature to do just that. Of course, Adley had an epiphany on the road back home to Benton, and expressing his love and admiration for the new governor, switched to the Republican Party.
Adley is just one voice of many, each with its own peculiar perspective.
The indication from Adley concerning the new call so far seems negative. "I don't know anyone whose integrity is at risk over a hot dog and a can of beer or a steak and glass of tea or wine," Adley said. "We like to talk about things that ought to be talked about but don't particularly address a problem. If you are going to send the message to America, let's make it a good message. Let's have some substance with what we've said."
Campaign finance reform is on the governor's list, and that is like trying to take honey from angry bees. More disclosure and transparency in this area would be welcomed by the people, but the powers that be in the legislature are sure to attempt to water this one down.
I have predicted before, and do so again, that a bill will be passed and that both the Governor and the legislators will take credit for 'cleaning up state government'. That they will do that is a no-brainer. The true test will be in the quality of the legislation. Keep your eye on local disclosure and campaign finance reform. These two things will determine whether or not we will truly have 'gold standard' ethics legislation.
We will see.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Nod and a Wink to Jindal "Ethics"

We published the following on the night "Bobby" Jindal was elected:

"Bobby" Jindal has done it. The liberal media are gushing, thrilled that Louisiana has elected its first non-white governor since reconstruction. No one seems to be able to see past the hoopla to the fact that Louisiana has once more gone hook, line and sinker for a slick packaged, smooth talking "reformer".Following in the footsteps of the great "reformers" Huey P Long and Edwin W Edwards may not be an easy walk for Jindal. First of all, he has to convince the State Legislature to go along with all his multi-point plans. Will he be another Buddy Roemer, who when the legislature rejected his advances took all his marbles and went home and pouted for the rest of his term? Or will he truly take charge, as his predecessors Long and Edwards did, and mold the state in his own image? In any event, he has a long row to hoe. And we will be watching.

We have been watching, and this is what we have seen:

Jindal said that "strong penalties should be automatically incurred in any instance of deceptive reporting. (We should) increase penalties for fraudulent or incomplete reports and registrations."

He also said that he "will have a high standard for permformance and a zero-tolerance for ethical lapses by my adminstrative appointments." Recently, Jindal was fined by the state ethics board for failure to report a $100,000 in kind donation by the Republican Party. Jindal announced that he will pay the fine out of his campaign fund, although his own ethics advisory panel recommended that fines not be paid out of campaign funds.

According to a spokesman, Timmy Teepell was responsible for the oversight. Where is Teepell now? Still gainfully employed as Jindal's chief of staff without so much as a slap on the wrist.

Zero tolerance? What a joke. Smoke and mirrors, folks, and look for a lot more.

Earl Long once said "Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink."

I think Jindal just winked.