Lawmakers battle with Jindal for more transparency - again

by Heather Miller

Backed by good government groups and the Louisiana Press Association, legislation to open up more records from the governor's office sailed through a Senate committee despite strong opposition from the administration.

For the third consecutive year, state Sen. Robert Adley is trying to make Gov. Bobby Jindal's office more transparent by requiring the administration to open up more records that currently are shielded from the state's public record laws.

The Times-Picayune reports that the Benton Republican's bill has thus far made it through a Senate committee and is heading to the Senate floor, the same place that killed the bill last year thanks to an outcry from the administration.

Current law allows Jindal, who spent his first months in office creating what he calls a "gold standard" of ethics reform, to keep some things, like budget information, a secret until it's complete. State lawmakers have opined about the law since Jindal took office, but have yet to gain enough support to strip that provision.

Other records, like the governor's schedule and anything pertaining to his children and wife, are not included in Adley's push to make the state's top office more public. But Jindal and his executive counsel argue that a term called "deliberative process," which Adley points out was first used centuries ago by British royalty, protects the administration from revealing its decision-making documents:

Lawmakers complained this year that Jindal's office has not been forthcoming with details of the budget, the possible sale of state prisons or the privatization of the state's Group Benefits insurance program.

"We have had three years of waiting to see how it works," Adley said of existing law ... "It has not worked very well."

Despite Jindal's special 2008 legislative session to enact laws to improve ethics laws and improve transparency in government, "the governor's office enjoys more secrecy now than before ... and it is spreading through all of government" under Jindal's administration, said Carl Redman, executive editor of The Advocate, Baton Rouge's daily newspaper.

"It is time to open the governor's office, too," said Jean Armstrong, representing the League of Women Voters and Common Cause. The bill was also backed by the Council for a Better Louisiana, an issues-oriented public policy organization, and the Louisiana Press Association.

Read more on Adley's bill here.