BATON ROUGE — Lawmakers will have new approval authority over consulting contracts signed across state agencies, in response to complaints about wasteful spending and after a state representative’s five-year struggle to get the provisions put in law.
In the end, Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard said he got his bill signed by voting with Gov. Bobby Jindal on another bill that was part of a state budget agreement.
“I made a deal,” Richard, an independent from Thibodaux, said Monday. “I didn’t like it, but it’s an avenue to fund higher education. This was for the state of Louisiana. It’s a reform measure that we haven’t done in years. It brings transparency.”
Most consulting and professional services contracts with a state price tag topping $40,000 annually will be subject to review from the Legislature’s joint
budget committee for the next three years.
If the 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, savings will go to a higher education fund.
Jindal vetoed the proposal a year ago.
Richard said he got Jindal’s signature in a trade for his vote on another bill the governor sought as part of a budget and tax deal. Richard said he agreed to support the creation of a tax credit, only on paper, that Jindal wanted to protect his anti-tax record nationally.
Asked if the measure was signed in exchange for Richard’s tax credit vote, Jindal spokesman Mike Reed issued a statement: “We signed the bill because it is good legislation that will provide the opportunity for more legislative input in the contracting process.”
Last year, Jindal wrote in his veto message the bill created an “arbitrary and burdensome process” that could hinder the providing of services and discourage businesses from seeking contracts.
Richard and Treasurer John Kennedy pushed the oversight legislation for five years to add new hurdles for the contracting, saying Louisiana wastes millions on such arrangements.
“Contracts for out-of-state consultants now will have to be vetted before the public. Like roaches scurrying away when the lights come on, the ridiculous contracts — and there are many of them — won’t be able to withstand public scrutiny,” Kennedy said in a statement.
The bill expires in July 2018.