We’re not the only observers, of course, who were struck by the irony of Gov. Bobby Jindal accusing state lawmakers of secrecy in making their decisions.
Jindal entered office promising to expand transparency in state government, but instead, he’s successfully advocated for changes in the Louisiana Public Records Law that shield more records from public view. And just days ago, his executive counsel, Thomas Enright, spoke against legislation to open more of the records in the Governor’s Office to public view. Jindal has consistently invoked the vague concept of “deliberative process” to shield records from his office from the public. As this argument goes, records involved in the governor’s decision-making shouldn’t be seen by anyone beyond his inner circle. Jindal has invoked the deliberative process exemption from the Public Records Law in stopping state agencies under his control from releasing various records.
Earlier this year, when Jindal briefed lawmakers on his evolving plan to change the state’s tax policies, his staff told participants in the meetings that they couldn’t take briefing documents with them when they left. The obvious intent was to give the public as little information as possible about how important tax policy proposals were being developed.
Now, the governor is complaining that the Legislature is “cooking up a secret plan” to raise taxes.
“I just want to call on the Legislature to open up the process,” Jindal said during a news conference. “Let the people’s voices be heard.”
We agree with the governor that the public should have a clear view when public policy is being made. We hope that lawmakers honor that principle as they consider a variety of options for balancing the state budget, including budget cuts and scaling back tax exemptions.
But the governor should honor the ideal of openness in formulating his own policy proposals. Now is the time for Jindal to lead by example.