Senate OKs ethics exception for ex-senator

The Louisiana Senate on Wednesday supported an ethics exception for former state Sen. Francis Heitmeier, of New Orleans.

The Senate voted 20-8 for legislation under which Heitmeier would get a special exception to lobby the Louisiana Legislature while his brother is a member. Heitmeier’s brother, David, is a state senator.

It was final legislative passsage for the measure.

Eleven senators did not vote on the legislation, House Bill 459 sponsored by state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans.

State Sen. Jody Amedee, R-Gonzales, said the exception is similar to others approved for immediate family members of other legislators to prevent violation of conflicts of interest laws.

HB459 does not mention Heitmeier by name but provides specific information unique to him.

State Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, said legislators are setting a bad precedent. If exceptions are going to continue to be approved, Peterson suggested eliminating the law prohibiting the activity. “Why do we make the exception for one?” she asked.

Peterson got four votes for removing the conflict-of-interest provision. She did not vote for her own amendment, which she said she proposed to make a point.

“It’s not good public policy. This is not personal. It is not in the best interest of what we do here ... The people who sent us here they want to know there’s no personal gain associated wth what we do. That’s why we have the immediate family provision in the ethics law,” Peterson said.

Heitmeier is a lobbyist for the New Orleans Baton Rouge Steamship Pilots Association, according the state ethics agency.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.