The American Press
In an era when people are becoming more skeptical of government in general, it is no time for lawmakers to be adding to the list of things they want hidden from the public.
On the contrary, the more sunshine we can have on government the better. Elected officials will never retain or regain the respect of the people by continuing to show distrust and contempt for the people they serve by exempting their actions from public view. Lawmakers in Baton Rouge are proposing a troubling list of public records exemptions that would reduce the right of the people to know what their own government is doing.
Scott Stenberg, a lawyer who represents the Louisiana Press Association, was recently quoted in The (Baton Rouge) Advocate as saying, “People need to know that closing records makes government less transparent and that makes government inherently worse.”
Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers have reportedly filed more than a dozen exemptions to the public records laws to prevent people from knowing about sexual harassment allegations in government agencies, economic development negotiations for port projects, certain architectural licensing information, details about the state’s medical marijuana program and information about student code-of-conduct violations on public college campuses.
Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, chairman of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, told The Advocate that “an inordinate amount” of exemption measures have been filed. He noted that the increase can be attributed to privacy and security concerns raised by technological advancements and electronic record-keeping.
The most sweeping of all legislation filed in the session was by Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, which would broadly exempt all documents or records involving allegations of sexual harassment or discrimination at public agencies. Gov. John Bel Edwards former chief of staff, Johnny Anderson, resigned in November amid sexual harassment allegations. We need more sunshine in government, not less. We need a government we can trust, not one that constantly betrays that trust.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the board, whose members are Crystal Stevenson, John Guidroz, Emily Fontenot, retired editor Jim Beam and retired staff writer Mike Jones.
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