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Editorial: Time to change what’s going on in Baton Rouge

Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 6:34 PM

A state lawmaker wants to make state government more open via a couple of bills that have been filed for the upcoming regular session of the state Legislature.

Jerome ‘‘Dee’’ Richard, I-Thibodaux, is seeking a two-year moratorium on state legislators being appointed to a state position and wants to ensure that the governor’s records now shielded for public view be maintained and archived. They would be subject to open records requests from the media and the public after 10 years.

Richard said he wants to stop the practice of state lawmakers taking unclassified positions in state government immediately after leaving their seat in the state Legislature.

He said the common practice smacks of a ‘‘good old boys network.’’ He worries that positions could be promised by governors in exchange for favorable votes.

In the past five years, former legislators have been appointed to jobs with the Alcohol and Tobacco Control, Insurance Department, Office of Motor Vehicles, Pardon Board, Revenue Department and Tax Commission.

‘‘It’s time we change what’s going on in government,’’ Richard told The Advocate of Baton Rouge. ‘‘It you’re such a good fit for a job, then wait two years and come back and get it.’’

Richard also wants to preserve any records that are part of the executive branch’s ‘‘deliberative process.’’

Those records, including emails, are currently off limit from public scrutiny because of a bill passed during Gov. Bobby Jindal’s first term and pushed by the governor. The Jindal administration has repeatedly cited the ''deliberative process’’ in cloaking from public view such serious matters as the reform of the state’s public hospital system and reorganization of the LSU system.

‘‘This is about transparency,’’ said Richard. ‘‘We’re among the few states that allow this. The present law is blocking public records.’’

Richard led a failed attempt to call lawmakers back into special session last fall to review budget decisions made by the Jindal administration. Richard said that state legislators had been purposely left out of the loop on decisions by Jindal to close the Phelps Correctional Facility in DeQuincy and health-care facilities around the state.

He has at least one ally in state Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, who said he would handle the bills, if approved by the House, in the upper chamber.

Quite frankly, though, he faces an uphill battle just as steep as the one he waged in the fall to convene a special session to review the budget cuts.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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