Thursday, February 28, 2008

Reform? Louisiana government ethics? Not possible ... but...

For anyone who is familiar with Louisiana politics and government, this is an amazing story. The new (Republican) governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, has forced a set of real ethics reforms through the state legislature.

From the New York times
The new requirements will force all state legislators, as well as most other elected and appointed officials around the state, to disclose all sources of income, real estate holdings and debts over $10,000. (Judges are exempted.) Lawmakers and executive branch officials will no longer be able to get contracts for state-financed or disaster-related work. Lobbyists will also have to disclose their sources of income and will be limited to spending no more than $50 per elected official, per meal; splitting the tab, say among other lobbyists or legislators, will also be prohibited.

The new income disclosure requirements for legislators are comparable to those of Washington State, ranked first in the country by the Center for Public Integrity.
For Bobby Jindal to actually get that pack of crooks that call themselves the Louisiana State Legislature to even pass such legislation is a miracle on par with or even surpassing the Biblical story of Christ feeding the multitude with a very few loaves and fishes.

When I lived in Louisiana it quickly became clear to me that no one there believed there is any value in government organizations. If you need something, you don't ask "the government" for it, you ask some person you know, and if you get anything it is because of your personal relationship with that person. As extreme as it sounds, if you went to the Parish (county) office to get a marriage license, the clerk didn't issue you one because that was her job and doing so was part of her job description. She did it because she was your friend and she was doing you a favor, one you exchanged for the favor of a fee. The culture in Louisiana is that there are no government systems, there are only personal relationships.

Since there are no systems of government, there is no reason to try to make government more efficient. In that kind of atmosphere, ethics reforms not only would not be expected to work, but would be expected to make government even less efficient. [Note: This is my personal observation, not sourced to anyone else.]

So this legislation is truly amazing.

Even more amazing, though, will be if somehow the government of Louisiana can actually implement this ethics legislation in any effective manner. A cynic (which should include anyone closely familiar with Louisiana politics) would suspect that the legislators who voted for this legislation did so with every intention of finding ways around it at the earliest instance. So the heavy lifting is going to be to actually make these ideas work in the culture of Louisiana.

It's going to be interesting.

[ h/t to The Reality-Based Community. ]

No comments: