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McPherson Businesses Cash in State Money
Associated Press
Monday, July 10, 2006

Louisiana lawmakers doing business with the state and with local governments have reported earning money from Medicaid payments, legal work and insurance policies.

All members of the Legislature must submit financial disclosure forms detailing how much, if any, money they or their spouses made in dealings with the state or with city, parish or other local governments.

Sen. Joe McPherson, co-owner of a Lafayette nursing home, reported earning more government money than any other lawmaker. The facility, Maison de Lafayette, received $3.3 million from the state in Medicaid payments, McPherson, D-Woodworth, said in his form.

Government watchdog groups are longtime critics of allowing lawmakers to do business with governments, saying it creates conflicts of interest when legislators must take positions on bills supported or opposed by those governments.

Lawmakers defend the practice. Several bills to prohibit it have failed to get through the Legislature.

Other lawmakers reporting large sums from 2005 government work include:

-Rep. Bryant Hammett, D-Ferriday, whose engineering firm made $737,826 for projects for Columbia, Concordia and Tensas parishes, towns including Ferriday and Jonesville, and work for governments elsewhere in the state. Hammett has said he plans to give up his House seat to take a job in the Blanco administration overseeing the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged in 2005 hurricanes.

-Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Plaquemines, reported that a Pierre Part hardware store owned by her husband and his siblings made $56,351 from local government bodies in Assumption Parish.

-Rep. Glenn Ansardi, D-Kenner, said his law firm earned $470,000 doing legal work for local governments in Jefferson Parish.

-Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, a lawyer, reported that he and his wife made $143,366 doing work for 12 school boards.

The base salary of a senator or House member is $22,800 per year. Additionally, they can receive up to $115 for each day the Legislature was in session this year - another $11,155 for those 97 days.

Lawmakers in leadership positions make more. The House speaker and Senate president, Rep. Joe Salter, D-Florien, and Sen. Don Hines, D-Bunkie, each have a base salary of $32,000. The speaker pro tem and president pro tem, Rep. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, and Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, have base salaries of $24,500. The co-chairmen of the legislative budget committee, Rep. John Alario, D-Westwego, and Sen. Francis Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, make $28,000 plus expenses.