House rejects changes to legislative Tulane scholarship program

The Louisiana House rejected legislation Wednesday that aimed to bring new regulations to the 130-year-old Tulane legislative scholarship program.

The program grants each of the Legislature’s 144 members the power each year to award a one-year scholarship to the recipient of their choice. The scholarships are worth more than $46,000 each, or roughly $7 million annually.

In the 1990s, it was found that many legislators used the scholarships to send their own relatives to college.

State Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, wants to nix scholarships for immediate family members, elected officials and campaign contributors. He amended the bill to allow campaign contributions to be returned.

House Bill 307 also seeks to put the names of scholarship recipients on Tulane’s website. Recipients would have to disclose whether they are the immediate family member of an elected official.

Efforts to put some restrictions on the Tulane scholarships have proven unpopular with legislators this year.

State Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, asked the House Wednesday to leave the program alone. He said legislators are mere tenants who serve temporarily.

“We’re held accountable by our constituents and by our conscience. That’s enough,” he said.

Ritchie said he just wants an open and fair process. He said the scholarships are valuable.

The bill failed with 44 voting for it and 53 voting against it. The legislation needed 53 votes to advance.