February 27, 2008

On Behalf of the Freshman Class

Remarks at the Closing of the First Extraordinary Session of 2008

By State Representative Simone Champagne

We came here with enthusiasm and vision to help our Governor and fellow senior colleagues to lead our state in a new direction.

Thirty freshmen authored bills. Freshmen proposed 20 amendments to House Bills, of which 17 were adopted, and 24 amendments to Senate Bills, of which 15 were adopted. Five bills by freshmen have completed the legislative process.

We thank our Governor for bringing us here today. We could not have accomplished what we have in this short period of time without Speaker Jim Tucker, Speaker Pro Tem Karen Peterson, and House Clerk Butch Speer, who took up for us and fought for us when that may not have been the most popular thing to do at the time. We thank you.

We also thank our senior colleagues who offered us advice and guidance with the process.

Our staff who works diligently behind the scenes and who are the nuts and bolts of the operation that keep us grounded:

The Sergeants-at-Arms who come here everyday and protect the integrity of our house:

Chairman Rick Gallot and the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, understanding that we may not all like everything that was done but led this effort knowing that, long term, the "Company" known to us as our state will have a more prosperous future and who ultimately took the hits for the team:

Representative Jane Smith, who gave us wonderful advice in our orientation by telling us to respect our colleagues and they in turn will respect us:

We thank all of you for not only being our colleagues but our friends in this process.

Our work has just begun. It is a new day in Louisiana. Two weeks ago we walked on this floor individually; today we leave together as a team to Renew Louisiana.

February 21, 2008


by Jim Tucker, Speaker of the House

I would like to respond to the letter to the editor, "Bill Would Be Ethics Setback," which appeared in the February 19 edition of The Advocate as well as concerns stated by PAR and CABL of House Bill 41. While I respect Jean Armstrong, the author of the letter, and the League of Women Voters, PAR and CABL, I feel I must correct some of the inaccuracies stated therein.

House Bill 41 seeks to have administrative law judges rather than the Board of Ethics decide whether someone is guilty of violating ethics laws. Currently, the Board acts as investigator, prosecutor, and judge of alleged ethics violations.

I do not know how Ms. Armstrong can state that HB 41 was "added to the call at the last minute" and "put on a fast track to passage." The Governor is required by the Constitution to issue a call at least 5 days before convening a special session. He did that, and there was an item in the original call dealing with this issue. Additionally, HB 41 has been moving through the legislative process at the same rate as other bills. With a limited amount of time in a special session, all bills are heard as soon as possible. HB 41 is no different than any other bill.

HB 41 does not diminish the power of the Board of Ethics. The Board will continue to be the investigator and the prosecutor of ethics violations, as they should . However, it is a violation of a person's due process rights to be accused, prosecuted, tried and sentenced by the same body. Our legal system is based on a separation between the investigators (law enforcement agencies), accusers and triers (prosecutors), and the decision makers and sentencers (judges/juries). It should be no different for someone being investigated by the Board of Ethics. There is nothing wrong with infusing the process with outside persons who have an unbiased view and no preconceived ideas of a person's guilt or innocence. It is most important that independent individuals be able to look at all the evidence and determine judgment.

This bill provides for, among other things, a randomly selected 3-judge panel of administrative law judges to look at the evidence presented to determine if the accused is guilty or innocent of the accusations against them. This process will not "undermine" the system. On the contrary, I believe that these changes to the process strengthen the democratic system and place all parties, both accuser and accused, on a level playing field.

Again, HB 41 does not diminish the power of the Board of Ethics. This bill, like the others in the Governor's package, makes positive changes in the ethics law and will send the message that Louisiana is serious about ethics reform and transparency in government.

February 07, 2008

Appropriations Subcommittees Named

by Sheila McCant, Public Information Officer
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin this week announced the members of the Appropriations Committee's six standing subcommittees. The subcommittees, comprised of the members of the Appropriations Committee, will meet individually to conduct hearings on the governor's proposed Executive Budget which is submitted each spring to the legislature.

The subcommittees and membership are:

Business Development
Gary Smith, Chairman
Patrick Connick
Page Cortez
Eddie Lambert
John Schroder

Eddie Lambert, Chairman
Joe Harrison
Kevin Pearson
Karen Carter Peterson
Pat Smith

General Government
Brett Geymann, Chairman
Simone Champagne
Noble Ellington
Tony Ligi
J. P. Morrell

Health & Human Services
Tom McVea, Chairman
Chris Hazel
John LaBruzzo
Harvey LeBas
Patrick Williams

Infrastructure & Resources
Jim Morris, Chairman
Don Cazayoux
Noble Ellington
Walt Leger
Mert Smiley

Public Safety & Corrections
Elbert Guillory, Chairman
Chris Hazel
Tom McVea
Mert Smiley
Gary Smith

This year Governor Jindal's Executive Budget recommendations will be presented to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget on February 29, 2008. The subcommittees will begin meeting in the coming weeks.