BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After four years of calling for cuts in state consulting contracts, a Thibodaux lawmaker has won passage of a scaled-back proposal to give the Legislature more oversight of the deals signed across state agencies.
Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard, an independent, sought to force a 10 percent cut on agencies' spending on consulting and professional services contracts.
Senators repeatedly rejected the idea, which Richard has proposed since 2011 and which faced opposition from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration. But rather than kill the bill this year, senators rewrote it to provide more review of the contracts and no required reductions.
Under the final version, most consulting and professional services contracts with a state general fund price tag topping $40,000 will need approval from the Legislature's joint budget committee before they could begin.
The revamped proposal won final passage Thursday with an 82-0 House vote. Richard has acknowledged it wasn't fully what he wanted, but he said it's all he could get through the Senate.
It's unclear what Jindal will do now that the measure is headed his way.
"We will review that bill when it gets to our desk," the Republican governor's spokeswoman Sarah Haley said in an email.
Treasurer John Kennedy has traveled the state pushing the bill, saying Louisiana has millions of dollars in unnecessary consulting and professional services contracts. He carries a thick book of contracts to illustrate the long list of agreements that agencies have in place.
Kennedy praised the bill's passage, despite the rewrite, saying it's an effort "to bring the consulting contract process into the sunlight."
"Nothing makes it easier to resist temptation than good values, a proper upbringing and witnesses. This bill provides the witnesses," the treasurer said in a statement. "For the first time the Legislature will be able to take a hard look at state contracts."
If the Legislature's joint budget committee doesn't request a review within 30 days from receiving information about the contract, it will be deemed approved. If the committee rejects or reworks a contract, any savings will be directed to a fund for higher education.
Contracts involving Medicaid services, elections and indigent defense will be exempt from the oversight requirement.
The bill expires in 2017, unless lawmakers choose to renew the provisions.
House Bill 142 can be found at www.legis.la.gov