Our Views: Panel nixes accountability

In rejecting a bill to expand public access to the records of the Governor’s Office, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee early in this legislative session struck a blow against transparency in state government. The bill was defeated after opposition by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive counsel, Thomas Enright. That’s a sad development from a governor who entered his first term promising to expand transparency in state government.

House Bill 19, sponsored by state Rep. Dee Richard, No Party-Thibodaux, would have opened most records of the Governor’s Office to the public, repealing a broad public records law exception that shields from pubic view documents related to the governor’s deliberative process. Jindal inserted that provision into state law in 2009.

The deliberative process exemption throws an overly wide net, allowing any governor to shield from public scrutiny the documents that he uses to make decisions. Since a governor’s primary job is to make decisions, the exemption makes secrecy a default position at the Governor’s Office.

Even more troubling has been Jindal’s decision to invoke the deliberative process exemption in stopping state agencies under his control from releasing various public records.

For example, the Governor’s Office intervened to stop LSU from releasing information related to public hospital budget cuts and privatization efforts.

When state leaders are allowed to make decisions outside of public view, accountability suffers.

We’re not surprised that lawmakers opted not to improve the Louisiana Public Records Law, but we’re disappointed nonetheless.

The state’s residents should be disappointed, too.