Governor's office under fire for lack of transparency
15 May 2008
Governor Bobby Jindal was elected on promises of increased transparency and accountability of government, yet his administration is fighting against a bill which would do just that. While the Louisiana Public Records Law does give the public a good amount of access to government documents, the exception to this rule is the Governor's executive office.
Under the current law, a virtual seal is applied to documents from the governor's office and the more than 60 state agencies, boards, and commissions under the control of the governor. While Jindal's office has endorsed the roll back of exemptions on these separate entities, critics of the governor argue that this is simply not enough.
Currently on the table are two bills related to this issue - Senate Bill 629 and House Bill 1100.
Senate Bill 629
Introduced by Senator Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), Senate Bill 629 has been backed by Jindal's administration. It would effectively seal documents in the offices of governor, inspector general, the Governor's Office of Homeland Security, State Military Department, certain projects by the state Department of Economic Development, and any direct communication between the governor's office and the agencies which currently have a seal.
House Bill 1100
Introduced by Representative Wayne Waddell (R-Shreveport), House Bill 1100 had found the support of Louisiana's newspaper editors. It effectively limits the virtual seal to the governor, chief of staff and the legal counsel. Jindal attorney Jimmy Faircloth declared HB 1100 too vague, allowing sensitive information to be at risk.
On Wednesday, June 4, HB 1100 was put to a vote before the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. With a 3-2 tally, the bill was effectively killed with a blow to transparency. Committee Chairman Robert Kostelka, who cast the deciding vote, declared, "Just a little history lesson, our forefathers wrote the Constitution in secret."
Governor's office ranks last in U.S.
Transparency in Louisiana
The blanket exemptions put Louisiana towards the bottom of the states in public access to government documents. A great number of states base exemptions on the type of record, not the office or agency involved. This allows for public access to critical information regarding the actions of their government, while also creating protection of sensitive information. This has not stopped those states from conducting business, and there is no reason Louisiana could not be the same.
- ↑ 2TheAdvocate, Our Views: Open Access to Records, May 15, 2008
- ↑ The Times-Picayune, Jindal's office dickers over privacy, May 14, 2008
- ↑ The Times-Picayune, Panel refuses to roll back open records exceptions, June 5, 2008
- ↑ WDSU News, I-Team: Governor's Office Ranks Last In Transparency, August 9, 2008