Ethics exception advances

A state House committee approved a bill Wednesday carving out an exception in state ethics law to allow one of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s top deputies to become executive director of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board.

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee, without objection, advanced Senate Bill 303, which helps Cedric Grant.

The legislation also got a hitchhiker as the panel added a provision that would allow state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members to do business with the state.

BESE members would no longer be subject to the business prohibition that covers legislators, heads of state departments, the commissioner of administration, the Ethics Board as well as their family members and companies .

State Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, said the current ethics ban is “having a killing effect in terms of some of their (BESE members’) businesses.”

The issue has come up involving BESE member Jay Guillot, of Ruston, who sought Ethics Board guidance on work his company wanted to continue to do with the Labor Department.

The Legislature inserted BESE members in the ban when it passed Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ethics law revamp in 2008.

The expanded bill now moves to the House floor for debate.

SB303 was revamped in a Senate committee to help Grant.

Last month, a sharply divided Ethics Board told Grant he would violate a state law by accepting the job at the water board. Grant has been serving in Landrieu’s place on the board. State law prohibits anyone from stepping down from a public board, then accepting a job with that board within two years.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, said there have been prior Ethics Board opinions that give clearance in cases where the individual is not the official appointee to a board.

He also noted the 6-5 Ethics Board vote against Grant.

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