Louisiana ethics session may end early

Published 12:23 am Friday, February 22, 2008

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Legislative leaders slowed the break-neck pace of a special session on ethics law changes, delaying votes Thursday on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s two main proposals so that lawmakers had a chance to comb through them.

Lawmakers still say they expect to wrap up the special session early. But rather than work through the weekend and go home, the Legislature is planning to take a break for the weekend and end its work by early next week, House Speaker Jim Tucker said.

Tucker, R-Terrytown, said the weekend break will give the staff time to catch up on its work and will give lawmakers time to review the latest versions of lengthy and complex bills.

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‘‘It will give everybody a chance to stop and see what’s been done,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘We’ve got the time, and we were aggressively pushing, but I think we’re better off. This is important stuff.’’

And he added, ‘‘The members are exhausted. I think we’ve worked them pretty hard.’’

The session called by Jindal could last until March 1, but lawmakers have been speeding through the major bills sought by the governor.

Votes were delayed Thursday in the House and Senate on Jindal’s two hallmark bills: one requiring many officials to disclose their income sources and another that would ban lawmakers from doing business with state agencies. The Senate will debate the income disclosure bill on Friday, and the House will debate the contract ban measure.

Some lawmakers have complained the work has been done in a manner to ensure Jindal’s bills get top priority — while individual legislative proposals that might be stronger are falling by the wayside. The slow-down, however, means lawmakers have more time to try to wind their proposals through the Legislature.

Among the items that continued moving through the Legislature Thursday:

—The House agreed to a bill that would ban many of the free tickets that lawmakers and other elected officials can receive from lobbyists, but lawmakers limited the bill to bar only the free tickets to professional sports games, college sports games and big-money cultural events and free fishing trips, hunting trips and golf games from lobbyists. The bill heads back to the Senate for approval.

—The House approved a measure that would cap lobbyist spending on lawmakers and other officials to no more than $50 per meal. Lawmakers rejected attempts to enact a ‘‘no cup of coffee’’ rule that would ban all lobbyist spending on officials. The bill also heads to the Senate for approval.