Leslie Turk

Financial disclosure laws may lead to resignations

by Leslie Turk

It's understandable that some of the most highly qualified members of state boards and commissions are threatening to resign if forced to disclose wide-ranging personal financial information. Legislation passed during the special ethics session and now being debated by the House and Senate would require these members (those who earn at least $16,800 a year from the position or whose boards spend or invest more than $1 million a year) to file the same disclosure reports as legislators, including income and how it's earned, debts, liabilities, property ownership and any other investments.

The House is seeking to maintain the current the law, which covers most of these members (it has even tacked local government boards and commissions onto the legislation), while many senators favor limiting the groups and reducing the required level of disclosure.

State Sen. Danny Martiny says the Legislature erred in requiring members of state boards and commissions -- which includes thousands of appointees from higher education to museum boards -- to reveal so much of their personal finances. The state could run into trouble filling those spots with qualified members.

“I don’t think there was any rhyme or reason we did it to them other than we did it to ourselves and we reacted," today's Advocate quoted the Kenner Republican saying. "I don’t believe we reacted wisely."

Martiny is pushing for less reporting but is running into opposition from fellow senators like Democrat Troy Hebert of Jeanerette, who says the requirement might provide an opportunity for "some little people to get on these boards," according to The Advocate story. They don't mind disclosing that they make $10 an hour and live in a trailer, Hebert said.

State Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, who led the disclosure measure in the special session, says he is committed to finding middle ground before the regular session ends June 23. Gallot told The Advocate he does not know where the Jindal administration stands on the issue.

For that answer, Gallot can just get in line behind the long list of people waiting for the governor to return a phone call about the state's business -- because it's unlikely he'll find the governor, whom most observers say has been noticeably absent from the Capitol.