Bill would lift punishments for providing some information

Public employees could not be punished for providing information requested by legislators or legislative committees under a bill that cleared a Louisiana House committee Wednesday.

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee approved House Bill 387, which was opposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s lawyers.

The bill now advances to the House floor for debate.

“The purpose of this bill is to protect public employees at all levels,” said state Rep. John Schroder, R-Slidell. “It’s clear that a chilling effect has taken hold with public employees.”

“This really takes the intimidation part out. We get blocked from information based on that intimidation,” Schroder said.

The state Ethics Board would investigate cases where employees have been the subject of alleged retaliation for providing information. The board would offer a remedy.

Thomas Enright, Jindal’s executive counsel, said the legislation would protect public employees who may respond to a general request made at a public meeting. And it would protect public employees “even though they disobeyed their superiors direction not to attend” a legislative meeting, Enright said.

Tim Barfield, Jindal’s Revenue Department executive counsel, said the legislation would allow anyone who has information to be able to speak on behalf of an agency when the role is not within the scope of their job duties.

“What I am concerned about is the unintended consequences of employees speaking out of turn,” Barfield said.