House rejects BESE ethics law exception

The Louisiana House on Thursday batted down an attempt to allow state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members to do business with the state.

Ethics laws passed in 2008 includes BESE members among those elected and appointed officials subject to the business ban.

As it hit the House floor, Senate Bill 303 contained a provision that would have removed that prohibition.

The House agreed with state Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulfur, and voted 63-26 to remove the provision from the bill.

Danahay reminded the House of the “gold standard” of ethics the Legislature passed at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s urging to improve the state’s image. He said legislators and their close relatives are subject to the same contract ban that BESE is currently under.

“They knew when they ran for that office they could continue their contracts or leave that office,” said Danahay.

State Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, pushed for the BESE exception, said the contract ban is creating problems for a BESE member in his district that’s an engineer. He said the current situation will discourage “good men and women” from running for the office because of the “detrimental impact on their income as they serve.”

After stripping the BESE provision, the House approved SB303 on a 78-16 vote.

SB303 now would provide an exception to ethics laws that would allow deputy of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to become executive director of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board. The legislation helps Cedric Grant who had been serving as Landrieu’s representative on the board.

Under a House floor change, the bill would become effective on the signature of the governor.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics opposed the change

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

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