Bill to restrict public records access awaits Louisiana governor’s signature

June 11, 2024

Lawmakers in Louisiana have passed a measure that would allow local governments to prevent access to public records if they can prove they could hurt economic development efforts.

House Bill 461 would allow a city mayor, parish president or local government executive to declare any public records confidential if they determine their public release would have a detrimental effect on an active business negotiation. The bill also allows the company or person negotiating with the government to request confidentiality.

The bill is awaiting a decision by Gov. Jeff Landry.

Local governments would be required to publish a notice online with general information about each negotiation, but the notice would not have to include details such as the name of the company, the dollar amounts being negotiated and the prospective project site.

Louisiana state Rep. Steven Jackson, D-Shreveport, who sponsored the bill, said it would help Louisiana stay competitive and “strengthen the hand” of local governments when working to bring businesses to their communities.

“Once those negotiations are complete, those documents will be made readily available to the public,” Jackson said.

The bill originally passed the Louisiana state house in April. The house approved Senate amendments to the bill last week that require the project to be valued at $5 million or greater and create 15 permanent jobs for manufacturing or distribution centers or at least 25 permanent jobs for digital media, headquarters research and development or inbound call center operations.

The Senate also amended the bill to require that records of local government expenses related to economic development negotiations remain public, with the exception that a local chief executive officer could redact any identifying information that would expose people related to a firm in talks with the government.

The amended bill would also prohibit the local chief executive from entering into an agreement without an affirmative vote of the local legislative body consistent with the state’s open meetings law.

Local governments in Louisiana would have five days to determine whether to keep records confidential or inform the public.

Non-disclosure agreements between local governments and private businesses during economic development negotiations are not unusual in the U.S. Economic development projects are typically given code names and discussed during executive session at government meetings. Information regarding the business’s identity or any economic development incentives offered is only disclosed after action is taken in open court.

However, dissidents of the Louisiana law believe officials could use it loosely to prevent the release of any records to the public.

First Amendment attorney Scott Sternberg, who represents the Louisiana Press Association, is among those who have decried the bill as an attempt to restrict the public’s access to information.

Sternberg spoke in opposition to the bill at a Senate committee hearing, arguing that local governments would be able to hide any records they want simply by saying they’re related to economic development.

“There is an economic development angle to everything that a council does, a parish attorney’s office does, a clerk’s office does,” Sternberg said, adding that allowing the public to see government business negotiations can encourage healthy competition and lower tax incentives.

Other states have also recently passed laws restricting access to information that was previously public. They include:

Photo courtesy of

Miles Smith

Miles Smith has more than two decades of communications experience in the public and private sectors, including several years of covering local governments for various daily and weekly print publications. His scope of work includes handling public relations for large private-sector corporations and managing public-facing communications for local governments.

Smith has recently joined the team as a content writer for SPI’s news publications, which include Texas Government Insider, Government Contracting Pipeline and its newest digital product, Government Market News, which launched in September 2023. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s in journalism.

Don't Miss

Massive support, funding now available to improve supply-chain networks

New opportunities for multimodal freight, rail, and port projects are
A hospital hallway.

New hospitals greenlit for Amarillo, Wichita Falls

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is searching