Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Fear of Taco Bell still Looms Large

A committee in the State House this week killed House Bill 432, which was introduced by Rep. Walker Hines (D-NO) in an effort to plug a loophole in the new "Ethics" law just passed by the legislature in the special session in February. A provision in the bill limited lobbyist spending to $50 per event.
The current law, according to Mark Ballard of The Advocate, allows lobbyists to "spend $50 on predinner drinks, take $50 worth of appetizers out on the patio, head to the dining room for a $50 entrée, down a $50 dessert by the fire in the lobby, then retire to the bar for $50 worth of cigars and brandy. Legislators can do this every single night of the year and do it again for lunch." Hines' bill would have limited the $50 limit to a 24 hour period.
The leges, apparently in fear of the dreaded Taco Bell scenario, not only killed the bill but attacked its author.
Rep. Mert Smiley said that to the extent there is a problem, "it’s the media’s fault."
Rep. Tony Ligi said not a single constituent had complained to him about the loophole. He is worried that the reporting aspect will add to the work of the Ethics Board.
Sen. Danny Martiny argued that by virtue of their status as legislators, it should be harder for the ethics board to find that legislators failed to follow the rules the legislators set for themselves.
Also, according to Ballard, "A Senate committee forwarded legislation that would make secret most documents involving the governor and his staff. Though Jindal yakked up his “gold standard ethics reform” with TV talk show host Jay Leno, he spent more than a week ducking local press questions about all the loopholes and surprises in those ethics bills. The most seminal image — also televised — showed the governor’s press secretary’s body blocking a television reporter who tried to ask those questions as a door closed on a silent Jindal."
So much for transparency. So much for expecting our legislators to be satisfied with a $50 meal.

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