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Louisiana lawmakers carved out new ethics code exceptions

July 3, 2021 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Ignoring opposition from the Board of Ethics, Louisiana lawmakers have again chipped away at the laws that seek to avoid conflicts of interest for people holding public office.

The two Republican-sponsored ethics code exceptions passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards came over the objections of the state ethics board. Both pieces of legislation received overwhelming support from lawmakers, who have regularly carved out new exemptions to ethics restrictions over the years.

One bill by Hammond Rep. Nicholas Muscarello allows an immediate family member of a local school board member or school superintendent to work as a school bus driver. The ethics exception took effect as soon as the Democratic governor signed the bill.

The other bill by West Monroe Rep. Foy Gadberry will let local government officials, members of parish and municipal planning and zoning boards and their family members file applications for residential property subdivisions, zoning and building permits even if their agency or board oversees such issues. And they’ll be allowed to seek special exceptions from zoning regulations and building codes from their agencies and boards.

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They’ll have to meet certain criteria. For example, the property or development can’t use public funds, and the official will have to file a written notice about the transaction details with the ethics board and the local governing authority. The new law starts Aug. 1.

Edwards also signed into law a campaign finance change opposed by the ethics board that will allow candidates in Louisiana to take unlimited sums from political action committees. That removal of the cap on donations that come largely from special interest groups also begins Aug. 1.

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The bills are filed as House Bills 306 and 491.