Bid to limit campaign donations to State Treasurer fails _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Louisiana senators lined the back rail of the chamber during debates of bills in a rare Saturday session. The 2015 legislative session must end by 6 p.m. Thursday.

An effort to forbid campaign contributions to the State Treasurer was sidetracked Saturday by the Louisiana Senate.

House Bill 640, by Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, of Bossier City, would increase the fines for bribing voters from $2,000 to $4,000 for the first offense and up to $10,000 for subsequent offenses.

Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, attempted to amend the legislation to also ban the chairman of the State Bond commission, which is the state treasurer, from receiving campaign contributions from anyone doing business with the panel for a period of 90 days before and after the appearance.

“Yeah, that would probably be forever,” Morrell said in response to a question about the timing.

The commission, which meets monthly, decides and oversees the sale of bonds for the state. Bonds are financial instruments that act generally like large loans taken out by state and local governments, often to pay for construction projects, which are repaid over time with fees or taxpayer dollars.

State Treasurer John Kennedy often makes critical remarks about the state’s finances and the policies of the officials who handle the money.

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, ruled that the Morrell’s amendment was “not germane” — that is, of the same subject matter as the underlying bill — and could not be added to the legislation.

Morrell then withdrew his amendment and asked fellow senators to approve HB640, which they did on a vote of 38-0.

HB640 is the first substantive law change sponsored by Johnson, in his first session at the State Capitol, that has won the approval of both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature.

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