Saturday, February 26, 2005

Louisiana ethics board knows its limits…

Doug Simpson of AP reports that the Louisiana's ethics board tightened its rules for lobbyists seeking to influence members of the state's executive branch. This covers about 72,000 workers in departments such as Corrections and Agriculture and the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor.

The board decided Friday not to approve a proposed rule that would have barred lobbyists from wining and dining the spouses of such officials, or from giving the spouses tickets to sports events. State lawmakers have made it "painfully clear" they do not want such a restriction, board lawyer Gray Sexton said.

I would suggest that it is the taxpayers who are in pain. Why do our leges consider having the check picked up by lobbyists an entitlement? Why are our ethics officials so reluctant to do something that the leges might not like?

The new rules follow the Legislature's passage last year of a law requiring lobbyists to report any expenditure they make on a public official if it totals $50 or more in any one instance or $250 or more in a six-month period. Those who lobby lawmakers already were under the same requirement.

The law covers lobbyists who are paid to influence any elected official in state government, appointed members of any of the numerous state boards and commissions that have a majority of gubernatorial appointees, plus employees of those agencies.

The board's meeting Friday was to enact rules to monitor lobbyists, who face new requirements for registering and reporting their activity with the state. One rule applies to parties thrown by lobbyists, if more than 25 members of the executive branch attend. The lobbyist must report to the board how much money was spent on food and drink for those officials, the party's location and other details.

Board of Ethics Chairman Henry C. Perret Jr. said the rules will expand the public's knowledge of lobbyists' actions. "The people of Louisiana are going to learn some things they didn't know, and I think that's good," he said.


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