Louisiana legislators considering new list of public records exemptions

Louisiana’s lawmakers are considering ways to lock away more information from public view this session, proposing a list of public records exemptions that would chip away at people’s rights to see information from government agencies.

The number and breadth of exemptions filed for consideration represent an uptick, raising concerns that public officials are working to shield too many documents that tell citizens about the inner workings of their taxpayer-financed government agencies.

“People need to know that closing records makes government less transparent and that makes government inherently worse,” said Scott Sternberg, a lawyer who represents the Louisiana Press Association and an expert in public records law.

Of the more than a dozen exemptions filed by Democrats and Republicans, proposals that are advancing in the Louisiana Legislature would hide from view records involving 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.

House and Governmental Affairs Chairman Mike Danahay, the Sulphur Democrat whose committee reviews bills involving the records law,  said “an inordinate amount” of exemption measures have been filed. Danahay attributes the increase to privacy and security concerns raised by technological advancements and electronic record-keeping. Read more…