Baton Rouge, La. - Calling it one of the most productive sessions in recent memory, legislators left the State Capitol with a budget and a number of new laws on the books.
"I sense that we are turning a corner and that we're moving in a better direction, a more positive direction but there is so far to go," says House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Bel Edwards of Amite.
Among the issues lawmakers tacked this session is a reform to the Sewerage and Water Board.
Senator J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) co-sponsored the bill, which reduces the size of the board, shortens and staggers term limits and calls for more accountability on contracts. It also requires members of the Sewerage and Water Board to be well-qualified, something Al Bosworth of Levees.org says is long overdue.
"When the average person of the city sees names of people on the board that have been there for 10 or more years and know that they probably have very little to do with engineering or drainage or finances and that sort of stuff, they have to wonder," he says.
Lawmakers also revamped the pension fund for New Orleans firefighters, following FOX 8 investigations that led to two board members facing state ethics charges. The bills approved this session reduce the number of members on the board and increase the amount firefighters contribute to the fund. But control of the board remains in the state legislature, not the city.
And a bill approved this session gives the St. Tammany Parish Council more control over the parish coroner.
"The only change this bill does is to revoke certain financial management authority given to the coroner, mainly due to financial abuses of his office, many which were in excess of the legislative authority," says Rep. Tim Burns (R-Mandeville).
The bills still need to be signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal.
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