ProPublica and The Advocate released a report detailing a widespread practice within the Louisiana legislature of proposing and advocating legislation that would enrich lawmakers self-interest. Due to House rules, the practice is completely legal, however the ethics behind the practice are murky.
One of the industries which Louisiana lawmakers have been accused of conflict of interest is nursing homes. Assisted living facilities have been targeted in favor of nursing homes owned by or connected to state legislators.
State Representative Bob Hensgens (R) sponsored a bill to extend a moratorium on assisted living facilities that offer nursing care. The catch is that Hensgens is a nursing home administrator who stands to profit from the moratorium.
Hensgens argued that he supported the bill because he was unsure of the Louisiana Department of Health’s capability to oversee new assisted living facilities. In the end, the standalone bill was not pursued by Hensgens.
However, it was later tacked on as an amendment to an unrelated bill and was sponsored by Senator Fred Mills who owns a 10% stake in a nursing home. Two of the three members of the Senate conference committee who negotiated the final amendment had ties to nursing homes. In the end, a one-year moratorium on assisted living facilities was renewed.
Such conflict of interest is legal by House rules as long as others in the industry also stand to gain similarly by the legislation. As long as the law is not solely beneficial to the lawmaker’s self-interest than such conflicts of interest are completely legal.
Assisted living facility owners and AARP lobbyists have expressed frustration with the processes of the legislature that are heavily influenced by the nursing home industry. Louisianans and those working against the nursing industry lobby will be pushing for some type of ethics reform to be passed in order to reverse the legality of such conflict of interest.
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