Baton Roue (Louisiana), Feb.28 : Indian born Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been successful in having an extensive package of ethics bills approved by the State Legislature here this week, signaling a shift in the state's political culture.
According to a New York Times report, Jindal has succeeded in convincing lawmakers to pass bills aimed at making their finances less opaque, barring their lucrative contracts with the state - some have been known to do good business with them - and cutting down on perks like free tickets to sporting events. The bills, which advocates say will put Louisiana in the top tier of states with tough ethics rules, now await Jindal's signature, which should come early next week.
Jindal overcame resistance by convincing lawmakers that no job growth would occur in the state until it cleaned up its act and brought its ethics laws into the national mainstream.
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 dollars. (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 dollars 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.
Jindal, however, was unable to persuade lawmakers to pass another bill that would have ended retirement benefits for public officials convicted of crimes related to their state work.
In the legislative chambers, the votes for this ethics makeover were mostly unanimous, though the sarcastic commentary suggested that enthusiasm might not have been what was motivating legislators. Jindal has public opinion on his side, however.
Jindal said Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had presented him with a unique moment in his state's history to enact reforms; as he put it, the storms "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."