BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana House Republican leader’s push to enact hourly requirements on the governor’s Cabinet secretaries and restrict their outside work could catch the state health secretary in its crosshairs.
Alexandria Rep. Lance Harris, who heads the House GOP delegation, said his ethics legislation wasn’t targeted at anyone. But he acknowledged the measure could affect Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ health secretary, Rebekah Gee.
The bill, pending on the House floor, would require anyone chosen by the governor or lieutenant governor to lead a department to work at least seven hours a day and 40 hours a week, except when they take vacation or other types of leave. The agency heads would be barred from receiving “anything of economic value” or volunteering for outside employment from entities regulated by or seeking money from their departments.
Gee, an obstetrics and gynecology doctor, has continued to practice in New Orleans since taking over the Department of Health. The Edwards administration said she does the work for free.
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“We are reviewing the legislation now to determine its impact, if any, on our secretary,” Gee spokesman Bob Johannessen said.
Harris said Gee’s medical work didn’t prompt his proposal, which he called a “good transparency law.”
“I’m not just singling her out,” he said. “I think these executive officers ought to apply themselves full-time to the job. I think taxpayers deserve that.”
Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said executive agency heads “are working around the clock in their roles.”
“If Rep. Harris has a concern related to a particular position, he should say it, but based on his floor comments, he clearly doesn’t have an understanding about how many hours agency heads put in on this job,” Carbo said in a statement.
Carbo said the governor appreciates that Gee “is willing to work for pro-bono in order to keep her medical license. That’s a critical piece to her serving in that role.”
Harris’ bill, which won support Tuesday from the House Appropriations Committee, isn’t yet scheduled for a full House vote. Violators, under the proposal, would face fines up to $5,000 per day for each day of a violation and could be forced to turn over any money earned from the outside work.
House Bill 849: www.legis.la.gov
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