BATON ROUGE – Governor Bobby Jindal signed three bills today to enhance the state’s system for administering and enforcing ethics rules and campaign finance laws. The three bills – HB 942, HB 950, and HB 955 – were all sponsored by Representative Tim Burns and are part of the Governor’s 2012 legislative package.
Governor Jindal said, “Four years ago we enacted comprehensive ethics reform that gave Louisiana some of the strongest ethics laws in the country. These new laws build on those sweeping reforms by enhancing enforcement and making our ethics system more effective and accountable.”
In a letter to the legislators that carried these bills in the Senate and House, Public Affairs Research Council President Robert Travis Scott wrote, “House Bills 942, 950 and 955 will make significant improvements to the Code of Ethics and Campaign Finance Disclosure Act by providing stronger enforcement powers and greater clarity in the law.”
HB 942 by Representative Tim Burns gives the Board of Ethics 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.
HB 950 by Representative Tim Burns clarifies provisions in the Code of Governmental Ethics in three ways:
· First, it makes unambiguous that the staff of the Board of Ethics has the power to assess and order a penalty for a late filing, and that if a defendant requests a waiver of a penalty then the request must be made to the Board of Ethic; and alternatively, if the defendant wants to appeal the assessment of the penalty then the appeal must be made to the Ethics Adjudicatory Board.
· Second, prior to Governor Jindal signing this new law, the Board of Ethics had one year within which to issue charges against a defendant or the case must be dismissed. However, it is not clear whether this period is prescriptive, potentially allowing a defendant to impede an investigation and force the dismissal of the case. This proposal establishes that this one-year period is prescriptive, and thereby enhances the Ethics Board’s ability to conduct a proper investigation and prevent a defendant from taking actions that enable arbitrary dismissals.
· Finally, language in the Code of Governmental Ethics sometimes only refers to a “board.” This new law clearly articulates whether a provision is referencing the Board of Ethics or the Ethics Adjudicatory Board, and brings greater clarity to ethics enforcement and operations.
HB 955 by Representative Tim Burns specifies which alleged campaign finance violations are adjudicated by the Ethics Adjudicatory Board. It improves prior law to ensure failure to file and failure to timely file 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 these provisions by establishing clear authority on the prosecution and enforcement of violations of those laws.