- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Lawmakers in both the House and Senate want to curb the broad public records exemptions granted to Louisiana’s governor, and the proposed changes moved one step from final legislative passage Wednesday with a 100-0 House vote.

The proposal by Sen. Dan Claitor, a Baton Rouge Republican, would keep the governor’s communications with internal staff exempt from disclosure. But it would get rid of several exemptions introduced into public records law in a 2009 revamp backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The Senate has agreed to the measure. Claitor’s bill returns there for approval of technical changes. If it becomes law, the changes would take effect when a new governor enters office in January. Jindal hasn’t taken a position on the proposal so far and hasn’t said whether he’d sign it, even though it wouldn’t affect his administration.

Though attempts to change public records law in prior years have rarely escaped committee, the House didn’t even debate Claitor’s bill when it came up for a vote Wednesday. Lawmakers in recent years have complained that the Jindal administration took advantage of the 6-year-old law in ways that weren’t anticipated.

Claitor’s bill would remove an exemption that gives executive branch departments a six-month blackout period on budget documents. It also would do away with language that hides records considered part of a governor’s “deliberative process.” Agencies outside of Jindal’s office have claimed that exemption, even though it’s not granted to them in law.

“It morphed into something that we never intended it to be,” Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, said during the House committee hearing on the bill.

The Jindal administration has described the deliberative process exemption as a way to protect the free flow of ideas and discussions that help the governor make decisions. But the language has been more broadly interpreted than lawmakers wanted.

“It turns out we were boondoggled on that,” Claitor said when his bill was heard in committee.

Under the measure, even internal communications and exempted records would have to be retained for the state archives, and they would be available for review eight years after their creation.

The governor’s schedule would be protected for up to seven days after the event, to address security concerns.

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Online:

Senate Bill 190: www.legis.la.gov

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