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Aug 21, 2012 9:28 AM by AP

Louisiana boards and commissions near 500

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Despite efforts to shrink the number of Louisiana's governing boards and commissions, the total of such panels is higher now than when Gov. Bobby Jindal took office in 2008, according to a review by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's office released this week.

The auditor's report says as of June 2012, the state had 492 boards and commissions created by law or executive order. That compares to 484 such panels in 2008. The high point was in 2004, when 513 boards and commissions were on the books.

At least 277 of those panels pay per diems, salaries or travel for board members, costs that totaled nearly $5 million in the 2011 fiscal year and were budgeted for even more in the just-ended 2012 budget, the audit says.

"That is shocking to me. Do we need them? Are they effective?" state Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, who sponsored a bill in this year's legislative session eliminating eight groups told The Advocate.

Berthelot said he will take a cue from recommendations in the auditor's report to sponsor legislation next year to scrap others.

The numbers remain high in spite of annual efforts led in the past by former state Rep. Mert Smiley, R-St. Amant, and now Berthelot that led to scrapping of nonfunctioning entities.

The auditor also reported that 44 groups did not provide requested information required by state law.

Among the groups are the Interstate 10/12 Corridor Commission, the Interstate 49 North Extension Feasibility and Funding Task Force, the Interstate 49 South Feasibility and Funding Task Force, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act Implementation Commission, the Medicaid Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committee, the Naval War Memorial Commissioners, the Poverty Point Reservoir District Board of Commissioners and municipal employee, municipal police, registrar of voters' employee and sheriffs' pension fund boards.

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