Under heavy Jindal administration lobbying, the Senate on Monday overwhelmingly rejected an effort to make public more Governor’s Office records.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top aides watched from the gallery as senators voted 14 to 22 for Senate Bill 57, defeating it.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, said events in recent months underscore more than ever why the governor should not be able to hide behind “deliberative process” to keep important records outside public purview.
“Deliberative process” involves information considered in the decision-making process.
Adley pointed to Jindal’s refusal to release information involving efforts to privatize a part of the Office of Group Benefits, state employees’ health insurance agency, and a $300 million contract for Medicaid claims processing to a company for which a top Jindal aide once worked.
The governor also refused to release documents related to budget cuts during the past few years in response to public records requests.
“Now we have a history of documents being shrouded in secrecy,” said Adley, who has pushed the legislation for the past three years.
Adley said “deliberative process” has its roots in British royalty. “It was a privilege given royalty. America has never been built on royalty; it won’t work here. Sooner or later, kings and kingdoms fall,” he said.
State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, the only senator who spoke in opposition, said people may have problems with the way Jindal is handling “deliberative process,” but he asked senators not to tie the hands of future governors.
“We ought to give him the opportunity to do so without everything being second-guessed,” Martiny said.
State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, quoted President George Washington, saying, if there is no transparency in government, “we will be led like sheep to the slaughter.”
State Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, said Jindal put off limits records that under other governors, including Edwin Edwards, were public.
Under SB 57, fiscal records as well as budgetary records of the state of Louisiana would be public. In addition, communication between the legislative auditor and the Governor’s Office relative to fiscal or budget matters would be open.
Off limits would be intra-Governor’s Office communication, personal emails and phone records as well as travel plans.
VOTING FOR LEGISLATION THAT WOULD MAKE PUBLIC SOME RECORDS IN THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE. (14): Sens. Adley, Broome, Claitor, Dorsey, Gautreaux, Jackson, LaFleur, Marionneaux, McPherson, Morrish, Mount, Murray, Peterson and Willard-Lewis
VOTING AGAINST PUBLIC RECORDS (22): Sens. Alario, Amedee, Appel, Chabert, Cheek, Crowe, Donahue, Erdey, Guillory, Heitmeier, Kostelka, Long, Martiny, Michot, Mills, Nevers, Perry, Riser, Shaw, Smith, Thompson and Walsworth.
NOT VOTING FOR SB57 (3): President Chaisson and Sens. Morrell and Quinn.