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PAR Says Financial Disclosure Bill Offers Historic Chance

The state is poised for a big win for ethics reform. A bill to require legislators, statewide elected officials and local elected officials to report their income by source and range has nearly passed out of the Legislature. Successful passage of HB 730 would push Louisiana to become one of the top states in terms of legislative financial disclosure.

The bill initially was written to require financial disclosure for officials elected to the Legislature and statewide offices, candidates for those positions and their spouses, but it was amended to include local elected officials as well. Including local officials in the requirement threatens to erode support for the bill, because it may discourage qualified candidates from running for office in localities where they are badly needed.

Another amendment has increased the reporting requirements to force officials and candidates to be more specific about the amounts of income earned from each reported source. This more detailed reporting standard will enable voters to get a clearer picture of the sources of potential influence on their elected officials.

The bill is awaiting final House concurrence after being passed by the Senate with amendments. The House can either accept the amendments or send the bill to a conference committee where differences can be settled behind closed doors before each chamber gets another opportunity to accept the final changes.

For at least a decade, PAR has recommended that legislators and statewide elected officials be required to report their income and that of their spouses, much like the governor and candidates for governor are required to do. Local officials were never included in that recommendation, but even with that expansion of the mandate, this opportunity to require financial disclosure should not be missed.

That a legislative financial disclosure bill even made it out of committee is a precedent for ethics reform in this state. To win final passage would mark an historic success for Louisiana politics.

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