The state’s highly touted ethics reforms, recently passed by the state legislature, may actually make ethics violations harder to prove, according to the Public Affairs Research Council. The nonpartisan, government watchdog group put out a statment yesterday taking issue with an 11th hour amendment to an ethics bill which changed the burden of proof for ethics violations from “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing.”
Seemingly minor, PAR writes the difference in the legal terms is significant. PAR states the new standard will make it more costly to build cases and that “sufficient funding has not been allocated to support this expanded responsibility. Without additional resources, the new proof requirements will eliminate the Board of Ethics’ ability to prosecute all but the most blatant violations.” The report concludes:
The three-word change was inserted into the controversial ALF bill as a late amendment that was added with little debate. Many legislators who voted for the change likely didn’t understand its impact. As Louisiana struggles to improve its image, the timing of this change is particularly troublesome, but it can be remedied during the current session before its detrimental impact on ethics reform occurs.
An Associated Press Story today has Jindal’s response:
Jindal, asked about the criticism Wednesday before the report's release, said he was not convinced there was a problem. "I'm not an attorney," he told reporters. "My understanding is there is some disagreement between the ethics board and some of those members and our attorneys about what the appropriate standards should be." Jindal said those concerned about the issue should make their case to legislators, who are now meeting in regular session. But, he said, he would veto anything that he believes weakens the new ethical standards.