Cap1.jpg Several bills to consolidate Orleans Parish’s embattled seven-member assessor board into one elected assessor are set to be considered in the Louisiana Legislature’s upcoming regular session, which begins on March 27. Although similar bills were introduced in the Legislature’s recent special session, a House committee that includes two board members’ immediate family members, Rep. Jeff Arnold (R-Algiers) and Rep. Alex Heaton (D-New Orleans), killed the bills before they could reach the full House.

In response, Rep. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie) has pre-filed House Bill 990, which would amend the state ethics rules to force any legislator who is an immediate family member of an assessor to recuse himself on any assessor-related vote. Unlike the consolidation bills, which have been assigned to the same Ways and Means Committee that rejected the consolidation effort last session, LaBruzzo’s ethics bill will go before the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Although Rep. Arnold sits on both committees, Rep. Heaton does not. Opponents of reform will be relieved to know, however, that Rep. Jalila Jefferson-Bullock (D-New Orleans), does sit on House and Governmental Affairs, and she happens to be the niece of board member Betty Jefferson. (Editor’s Note: Not everyone in Louisiana is related to one another – just its politicians.)

It is unclear whether Arnold and Jefferson-Bullock will be forced to recuse themselves on the vote that would require them to recuse themselves on the assessor votes. Yet, recusal will probably not be required, as the House rule on ethics merely states that a legislator may recuse himself from any committee proceeding related to a question on which he believes he has a conflict of interest. Perhaps a bill to force recusals on bills affecting recusals is in order.

Developing . . .

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