BATON ROUGE – Louisiana has instated new laws for 2017 that will affect taxpayers and citizens.
According to the Associated Press, lawmakers are requiring the Louisiana State Law Institute to hold its meeting in public places, which analysts believe will cut spending tax dollars on hotel gatherings the Institute had been using. But Institute members are in opposition.
“Members of the board travel from all over the state and they’re going to have to travel and spend nights in hotels,” Dane Ciolino, a legal-ethics expert and professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans, told The Louisiana Record. “There is a lot of belt-tightening going on throughout the state budget and there’s no reason the law institute should be exempt from those efforts…but I don’t see any way to avoid travel expenses.”
The organization was established for law revision, law reform and legal research. According to legis.la.gov, the Institute’s purpose is “to promote and encourage the clarification and simplification of the law of Louisiana and its better adaption to present social needs; to secure the better administration of justice; and to carry on scholarly legal research and scientific legal work.”
“The Law Institute members are all volunteers, and they are not compensated for the work they do,” Ciolino said. “They have been doing this work for decades, and they do very good work. They are very well-respected by the legislature.”
According to The Advocate, the Institute spent more than $500,000 from 2012-2015 on meetings held at The Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans. The expenses were excused by Institute Director William Crawford as a way to encourage participation in the meetings and that the hotel gave the group a special reduced rate.
“That perk of having a Friday night in New Orleans is one of the incentives for serving with no pay as a member of the Louisiana Law Institute,” Ciolino said. “These are very well-respected lawyers, judges, law professors … many of whom could be making much more money if they were back billing hours at their offices. There is some sacrifice in this public service, so paying those travel expenses isn’t really unreasonable.”
The meetings will now be held at LSU’s law school and alumni center during the spring, and the Louisiana Supreme Court building during the fall, according to the Associated Press.
According to Ciolino, there never have been talks to compensate Institute members. There are no known plans of the state requiring Louisiana State Law Institute members to begin paying for their own travel expenses.