A state Senate bill to open records in the governor’s office cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.
Senate Bill 57 by state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, would lift restrictions on public access to records on pre-decisional advice and recommendations to the governor on budget matters.
The legislation also would open the door on records the governor claims are off limits because they relate to “executive deliberations.”
Communications between the governor and his immediate staff still would be private as would be security details on the schedules of the governor, his spouse and children.
The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee voted without objection to advance the bill to the full Senate.
Adley told the panel that he tried for years to define deliberative process. The Jindal administration often denies public records requests by claiming they involve deliberative process.
Deliberative process involves information the administration weighs to make decisions.
For example, the administration contends documents involving the possible privatization of a state employee health plan are off limits.
Adley said he finally decided to remove deliberative process from the law altogether.
Liz Murrill, deputy executive counsel to the governor, said legislators cannot just write deliberative process out of the law. She said the issue involves a constitution-based discussion.
Murrill said many decisions are not finalized until they come through the public process.
Carl Redman, executive editor of The Advocate, told the committee that the governor’s office enjoys more secrecy because of changes made to the public records law during Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.
He said deliberative process is being invoked across state government.
“Deliberative process is creeping down from the fourth floor into other agencies,” Redman said, referring to where the Governor’s Office is located in the State Capitol.