State ethics update — June 19

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Here’s our biweekly round-up of recent developments regarding ethics policies in the states.

Over the past few years, believe it or not, Louisiana has become something of a role model for other states in the area of transparency and open government. On June 16, the Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a new “transparency” bill. Sponsors of the bill claim that this would increase the number of records available to the public and open currently sealed documents in the governor’s office. But critics of the bill note that, at the same time, it also gives the governor the authority to decide what can — and cannot — be open to the public.

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, a government watchdog group, opposes the bill, saying “it would guard an entirely new category of records that currently is open to the public.” The new provisions would put a six-month delay on the release of certain documents that are currently readily available, and would apply not only to the governor’s office, but to any agency or department headed by the governor. With a six-month waiting period, documents that discuss time-sensitive policy matters would only be accessible after those decisions have already been made — which, critics argue, pretty much defeats the purpose of making them available in the first place.

Editors at The Advocate referred to the bill as a “particularly galling development under Jindal’s watch” and called out the administration for passing on two previous bills that would have opened most gubernatorial records to the public.

The bill is currently pending in the House.

Interested in how your state’s transparency laws add up? Be sure to check back next week when we release our latest States of Disclosure rankings — an updated state-by-state look at legislative financial disclosure laws.

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