BATON ROUGE, La. - Gov. Bobby Jindal rejected a bill Friday that would have required him to make public and to preserve all his office's documents involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
In his veto letter, the governor said the legislation would have hurt the state's position in future litigation against BP PLC, the oil giant that leased the rig which exploded April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and causing the disaster.
"This bill would allow BP and other parties with potential liability to the state to obtain information retained by any state agency responding to this tragic event," Jindal wrote, saying such access could jeopardize the state's position in seeking legal remedy for the spill's damage.
The Senate sponsor of the public records provision said Friday night that Jindal's veto was expected. He noted that the governor has repeatedly fought attempts to require preservation and open most of his office's records to public scrutiny.
"This governor has opposed transparency for the three years he's been in office, so that's not a surprise. What is sad about all this is it's just another black eye on Louisiana internationally now," said Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton.
Adley slipped the language requiring the governor's oil spill records to be open for public viewing and preserved for at least 10 years into a measure by Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco. Smith accepted the addition to his bill, and both the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly for passage of the public records requirement.
Despite hefty support for the bill, Adley said he doesn't think there's a realistic chance of getting lawmakers to agree to override Jindal's veto.
Adley also called it hypocritical for the governor to push BP to open some of its records to the state even as Jindal refuses to release his own.
"How in the world would making our records public let BP off for what they've done? That makes absolutely no sense," Adley said.
Jindal has said he wants BP to open its claims database to the state to help ensure payments are being processed promptly.
In the recent legislative session, Jindal's chief lawyer, Stephen Waguespack, opposed several public records bills. He argued that tweaks made to the governor's public records law last year afforded sufficient public access and that more sweeping proposals could squelch the free exchange of ideas in the governor's office.
House Bill 37 can be found at www.legis.state.la.us
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