Today, Governor Bobby Jindal announced legislative proposals for enhancing the state's system for administering and enforcing ethics rules. These reforms build on the sweeping changes enacted in the First Extraordinary Session of 2008.
Governor Jindal said, "Four years ago, I made a commitment to the people of Louisiana that to clean up our state's reputation of corruption and enhance our ability to create jobs -- we had to make reforming Louisiana's ethics system a priority. Today, Louisiana is among the top in the nation for our ethics laws. To be good stewards of taxpayer money and provide effective government for our communities, we have to look for ways to improve the administration and enforcement of those laws. That's why for this session we'll push for enhancements that build upon our past successes in making our ethics system more effective and accountable."
Chairman of Senate and Governmental Affairs Sen. Jody Amedee said, "I look forward to working with the Governor and continuing our efforts to improve the state's ethics and campaign finance laws. These proposals will build on the comprehensive reforms we enacted in 2008 and will ensure better enforcement of violations."
Chairman of House and Governmental Affairs Rep. Tim Burns said, "We have some of the highest regarded ethics laws in the nation, and these proposals will enhance the enforcement and administration of our ethics code and campaign finance disclosure laws."
Director of the Division of Administrative Law Ann Wise said, "The Ethics Adjudicatory Board conducts impartial, professional adjudications with an emphasis on due process of law for all parties. Clarifying current law will promote this goal, to the benefit of all parties."
Ethics Administrator for the Board of Ethics Kathleen Allen said, "I look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to move forward with the proposed changes to strengthen the Ethics and Campaign Finance laws."
Proposals for Enhancing Louisiana's Ethics System:
Enhancing Enforcement of Campaign Finance Laws. This proposal will improve current law to ensure violations of the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act are adjudicated by the Ethics Adjudicatory Board and enforced by the Board of Ethics. This clarification will provide better enforcement of the campaign finance laws by establishing clear authority on the prosecution and enforcement of violations of those laws.
Enhancing Enforcement of Late Filing Fees & Clarifying Appeals. This proposal will make clear that the staff of the Board of Ethics has the power to assess and order a penalty for a late filing. Additionally, this proposal will clarify that if a defendant requests a waiver of a penalty, then the request must be made to the Board of Ethics. Alternatively, if the defendant disagrees that he violated the law, then this proposal clarifies that an appeal must be made to the Ethics Adjudicatory Board.
Enhancing Ability to Prosecute Ethics Violations. Currently, if the Ethics Adjudicatory Board rules against the Ethics Board, then the Ethics Board has no legal recourse for appealing that decision. This proposal will give the Ethics Board a limited right to appeal decisions of the Ethics Adjudicatory Board in order to provide an additional review of the merits of a case to ensure charges are properly evaluated.
Enhancing Ethics Board Authority to Assess Ethics Violations. Currently, the Ethics Board has one year within which to issue charges against a defendant or the case must be dismissed. It is not clear whether this period is prescriptive, and potentially allows a defendant to impede an investigation and force the dismissal of the case. This proposal will establish that this one year period is prescriptive - giving the Ethics Board the ability to suspend the one year dismissal rule in certain circumstances. This initiative will enhance the Ethics Board's ability to conduct a proper investigation and prevent a defendant from taking actions that enable arbitrary dismissals.
Enhancing Clarity in Ethics Administration. Currently, language in the ethics code sometimes only refers to a "board." This proposal will clearly articulate whether a provision is referencing the Ethics Board or the Ethics Adjudicatory Board. This will bring greater clarity to ethics enforcement and operations.