N.O. state rep hopes to abolish pardon board

by Leslie Turk

It's a longshot and direct result of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's now infamous raft of pardons, but if New Orleans Democratic state Rep. Austin Badon has his way, ex-state Rep. Rickey Hardy will be out of a job.

New Orleans state Rep. Austin Badon wants to abolish the gubernatorial pardon process, which would include the state's Board of Pardons, saying the move would save the state about $384,000. That amount includes $356,000 paid each year in salaries and benefits to the five members of the board, including recently appointed former state Rep. Rickey Hardy.

The board is responsible for making recommendations to the governor regarding applications for clemency and pardons of state prisoners, but the governor does not have to act on its recommendations.

A pardon, whether granted by the governor or automatic for first offenders who finish their jail sentence, probation and parole, restores most of a convicted felon's rights.

Lawmakers must approve Badon's House Bill 85, a proposed constitutional amendment that would then go to a vote of the people. Badon also filed House Bill 84, a measure that spells out the details of the proposed constitutional change. The Times-Picayune reported:

"The Pardon Board spends a hell of a lot of money ... to make recommendations to a governor who may not use them," Badon said. "It is a good-government measure and the right thing to do."

The proposal will need a two-thirds vote in the Legislature and then approval by voters in the Nov. 6 election. Badon said if it passes, it would become effective Jan. 1. ...

The measure would also take away the governor's powers to grant reprieves and to commute sentences. "This will end all pardons in Louisiana," Badon said.

Badon said he also wants Louisiana governors to avoid the trouble that former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour encountered when he pardoned 198 individuals, some convicted decades ago and freed for years, in the last days of his term in office. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has gone to court to challenge Barbour's pardons.

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