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|Thompson wants 'fair' ethics reform|
One veteran lawmaker from northeast Louisiana believes the upcoming special session to deal with ethics reform will be a daunting task, and he believes it must be dealt with carefully to adopt fair and acceptable legislation.
Sen. Francis Thompson said state legislators have not seen the "final package" on ethics reform that will be presented to the Legislature during a special session, which is expected to convene Feb. 10.
"I'm optimistic we'll be able to come out with a package that will be acceptable to lawmakers and other governmental entities that will be affected by that ethics law," said Thompson, D-Delhi, who represents District 34 in the Senate.
"But, we have to be very cautious to make sure that what we do is meaningful, and not just for show," Thompson said. "That's a double-edged sword; it can cut coming and going. So, we don't want to make it weak, but we don't want to make it where it's unreasonable because it could have detrimental affects on small communities."
Thompson said an ethics law could be harmful if it's written in a manner that would thwart people from serving in local government such as police jury, city council and school board positions.
"Honestly, if we're going to have an ethics bill, then you have to make it inclusive, or you'll have gaps and holes," Thompson said. "I think it should go from the top to a reasonable level.
"I think you ought to exempt small communities because you don't want to discourage potential local government leaders from being in local government. We want to encourage the very best to be in government. Same at the state level; we don't want to do anything that would prevent us from getting the best quality of legislators that we can get."
An ethics reform bill also should take into account criminal penalties on ethics violation as well as those who make the decisions regarding any criminal penalties, Thompson said.
"I have no problem with that being the district attorney as it is today," he said.
Personally, Thompson hopes ethics reform passes the Legislature to deter legislators, who are lawyers, from representing clients against government.
"If you're a state representative, or a state senator, it just makes sense to me that you represent the state … you don't represent a citizen against the state," he said.
Thompson also is in favor of disclosure, transparency in government and penalties that match the violations.
While several groups, including the state Ethics Board, have made recommendations on ethics reform, Thompson said legislators must look at the issue from all angles.
There is no timeframe to approve ethics reform legislation, Thompson said, and he's hopeful Democrats and Republicans can agree on something that is fair and attractive to all citizens of the state.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," he said.