OUR VIEW: Transparency bill a step in right direction

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Transparency is not often a term associated with Louisiana politics, but a state representative from Thibodaux is proposing legislation that would at least nudge the executive branch forward for administrations to come.

State Sen. Jerome Richard, who lists no party affiliation, is sponsoring HB 19 that would mandate previously protected state public records eligible for public viewing as deemed by the standing governor. The proposed legislation states “records of the office of the governor shall be public records.”

Included in this sweeping bill are records regarding budgets, or financial transactions conducted through the executive office.

Even those records considered privileged are eligible to be opened after 10 years, according to the bill.

However, intraoffice communications between the governor and his or her staff shall remain privileged from disclosure. Also remaining confidential are records “pertaining to the schedule of the governor, his spouse, or his child that contains security details” that could endanger family members.

Richard’s proposal, which is being sponsored by Sen. Rick Gallot of Ruston in the senior house, is good legislation that strikes an equitable balance between the public’s right to know and protecting the state’s executive branch.

Good government is transparent government, and any compromise should err on the side of openness. The right of citizens to look into government proceedings should never be compromised or entangled in a political labyrinth.

The bill is likely to encounter opposition along its circuitous route through the Legislature, but once reaching the governor’s mansion, Gov. Bobby Jindal should be quick with his stroke of the pen. After all, Jindal heralds himself as a champion of ethical reform in Louisiana politics, an ambitious goal in a state where roots of political corruption are buried deep in the sandy soil.

Gallot leading the Senate campaign is also intriguing since he once faced conflict-of-interest charges of his own for his alleged business dealings with Grambling State University and the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors. Gallot, who as a state representative in 2008 helped steer Jindal’s overhaul of Louisiana ethics laws through the house, was later cleared of those charges.

Regardless of who is shepherding the legislation, Richard’s bill is a step in the right direction in a state where transparency has been lacking for far too long.