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California ready to gut public records law

In the guise of saving money, state legislators are in cahoots with the governor to make your government less transparent, less beholden to its citizens and much less trustworthy.

This may well be the legacy of Gov. Jerry Brown's final act and the Democratic supermajority running things in Sacramento.

At issue are a pair of budget trailers -- SB 71 and AB 76 -- that would make aspects of the California Public Records Act voluntary ... because, you know, voluntary compliance to the law seems like such a good idea.

Specifically, if the governor signs these laughable amendments, local government won't have to respond to public records requests until they get around to it. They won't have to tell you why they are unresponsive. They will be free to raise salaries and approve cost overruns without a moment's explanation. Last year your state legislators allowed them to stop posting agendas because that was just too darn expensive. Tell me: Does government have a more important role than informing the public of its work and priorities?

The response from ink-stained wretches like myself has been swift and loud.

From the Sacramento Bee: The current Legislature – and the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown – is shaping up to be the worst in recent memory for transparent government.

From the Los Angeles Times: Being accountable to voters, serving the public, running government as a transparent and representative institution and not as a self-serving racket — it's all just so expensive.

From the Bakersfield Californian: Not to be cynical or anything, but if agencies didn't legally have to give people records detailing their own waste, fraud and abuse, do you really think they would?

Only one Democrat voted against this travesty -- Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco. We'll be asking other legislators in our area why it is so expensive to comply with open records law and why compliance isn't one of their legislative priorities. In the meantime, let Gov. Brown know how you feel about this one. Here's the contact form:

Web Link


Done. Thanks for the heads-up, Clay.

Clay, I too have sent some e-mails. The question I have not been able to answer is exactly who is supporting this travesty. If you can let us know perhaps we can have some influence on them.

Thanks Clay. I just got done hitting submit, after a thoughtful comment, on the link you provided.

Let's see what, if any, response I get. I don't think the Gov (or his "people", either) will have any problem understanding my thoughts.

I am continually amazed at what our elected do and attempt to do. Just a mind bender. Accountability is one short step from non-existant for them as it is - but apparently that's not quite good enough.

I should have stayed in DC and continued my pursuit of a law, then political career. Life now would have been so much more.....

Care to guess on a familiar name in the Budget Committee?

None other than Rich Gordon.

Just FYI; KTVU just reported )on the 6:00 News) that the measures went down in defeat.

Let's hope this is the end of it....but, knowing politicians, I wouldn't make that bet.

Now I have to wonder who's email pushed them over the edge?

From KTVU's website: "State legislature to reconsider public records bill" Web Link

Let's see what Jerry does now.

Signed, sent, and thanks Clay for getting the word out. It boggles the mind they proposed this. [now reading it's been withdrawn]

Haha, glad they got spanked. Remember who voted for it and don't return them to office! I.e. every Democrat except Yee.

"So the Legislature and the governor are willing to effectively suspend the state's sunshine laws — which are crucial for the public to know about the government's business — just to save some amount of money that it doesn't even know about. Shameful," the Chronicle editorial board wrote.

I don't think it's about saving money, it's about removing public scrutiny. Very shameful indeed.

Power corrupts. Accountability attenuates corruption.

Web Link CA legislators are so worried about saving money yet are happy to take pay and benefits raises.

"“The governor has done a fantastic job of getting the tax initiative passed and the economic climate, while not completely restored, is on the right trajectory," said Commissioner Wilma Wallace."

Meanwhile, Web Link "A financial report issued by state auditors finds that the state of California is in the red by an unsustainable $127.2 billion.

"The report says that the state’s negative status increased that year, largely because it spent $1.7 billion more than it received in revenues and wound up with an accumulated deficit of just under $23 billion in fiscal year 2011-2012, the Sacramento Bee stated."

And this is being "on the right trajectory?"

It is if you are one of the lucky ones - an elected rep eating ad drinking at the public trough. From that perspective, I'm sure life is peachy.

I gotta get a pair of those rose colored glasses. You're right, Just Sayin', "It boggles the mind..."

If this is killed, it is great. Someone's action obviously had an effect.

I still believe the most important thing we can do is find out who it is/was that pushed this legislation. That is who needs to be exposed.

>>the most important thing we can do is find out who it is/was that pushed this legislation.

The ones who voted for it are as bad or worse. WE KNOW WHO THEY ARE. VOTE THEM OUT.

Not arguing your point at all, "Just Sayin'" but you and I don't get a chance to vote out "all of them". On this vote record, it looks like we should keep Yee. But this legislation did not originate in the mind of some Senator. It was put there, designed, and written by some special interest group.

Those that are lobbying this action are the ones who need to be exposed. My guess is that it is a League of Cities but there must be some way to find out for certain. If it is, we can question our local supporters of that group whether it be our gang of mayors or some staff members.

Here is confirmation of the good news...

Web Link

If it were me, I'd start with who sponsored the bills. If nobody else looks and posts it here, I'll check it out after dinner. I am a very slow eater.

I understand your points BB and George, and yes, we can only vote out our own legislators. So let's do.

Here's a link: Web Link Sunday, June 16, 2013 "Who Buried SB 71/AB 76 Legislation In The CA Budget?"

"The bill was authored by the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. None of the Bay Area committee members -- chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and members Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley -- responded to emails and calls seeking comment late Friday afternoon.

Brown's spokesman on the budget, H.D. Palmer, said late Friday the budget conference committee had adopted a "compromise" solution by the Legislative Analyst's Office"

And welcome to the shell game. Now we get to see our elected act like a basketball player who draws the whistle for knocking an opponent into the third row, then has an incredulous look on his face when whistled. Who, me?

Hot potato ... hot hot hot potato

I'm not surprised to see Leno in the mix. Now these are the folks at the head of the needle, so we need to remember that the only blue that opposed it was Yee. I'm not a real Yee fan, but I appreciate his vote on this one. Maybe I need to reconsider my position on him.

Funny, I was going to suggest adding a couple of Talkabouters to the Standing Budget Committee so everything gets completely argued, but the Examiner beat me to it. Web Link

"Regardless of your political beliefs, in our state we have a one party majority in both houses [plus the same party governor -JS]. This offers the perfect atmosphere for abuse. Without balance, a healthy debate just isn’t possible when one party can do what it likes.

Please also tell your elected officials both in the Senate and the Assembly if they voted yes on this, even inadvertently due to the fast moving situation, without their immediate interaction to reverse this, you’ll be voting against them when it comes re-election time for endangering your liberties..."

Oops, I didn't say that right but you know what I mean.

Thanks all. I turn my back for a minute and we get good news from Sacramento. I am absolutely positive that pressure from all around made the difference on this one. I'll be checking in with our friends at the California Newspaper Publishers Association tomorrow to make sure everyone's happy. But for now, it appears the Legislature heard us on this one.

Clay, thanks for the info. i put my 2 cents in in no uncertain terms, even though I was a bit late. Please keep us informed, so we can weigh in again if necessary!

There is no need for the -trolltracker- to accentuate the shortcomings of Democrats here, the contents of this topic speak for itself.


OK, so now I'm a bit confused. Thomas Peele is terrifically well-versed in California public records law and laid out the latest in the Mercury-News late last night. If I understand correctly, it looks like our friends in the state Senate did not go along with the Assembly's late rush to save the CPRA. Here's the Mercury-News report:

Web Link

If I understand the Senate's cowardly response correctly, members want to wait until they hear of local government abuses (which, by the way, occur daily all over the state as it is) and hope for some future constitutional amendment to save a resource they claim to appreciate.

I'm checking with Senate and journalism sources and will try to sort it all out.

These assemblymen voted to gut your public records access:

RICH GORDON. 24th District Assemblyman. The San Mateo County Coastside from El Granada to the Santa Cruz County border. Promoted this garbage on the Budget Committee.

KEVIN MULLINS. 22nd District Assemblyman. Montara, Pacifica, San Mateo - Moss Beach. "Promoting transparency and accountability at the Capitol." What a joke.

Well, here Sen. Steinberg creates the false choice between paying for health care for kids and the securing the public's right to know. Make of it what you will. That said, maybe a constitutional amendment isn't such a bad idea. What do you think?

Web Link

They seriously can't believe this will fly with everything that is going on nationally. Taking money away from autistic children while giving raises to State employees etc. Isn't our debt around 200 billion?

Came across and article in - Union Watch

"Are Unions Behind Calif. Assembly Bill 76 to hinder Public Records Access."

Thanks for the latest link (I think), Clay. Absolute BS, IMHO.

These guys got caught with their knickers down and their attempts of misdirection are nothing short of a very poor example of a shell game - politicians doing what they do to cover their own backside. What a complete load...and with such sincerity, too.

The sad part is there are those that will actually believe them (and their compadres) and that they got caught this time, but one can be sure it'll come again - just as certainly as CUSD will have another leaky roof measure on an upcoming ballot.

Disgusting display of abuse of power and tenacity to serve their own best interests again at the expense of the public.

'If we hear of just one'...., yeah, nice sound bite boys. It appears that our legislators don't have enough to do that they go out of their way to hide what it is that they do do. Maybe, if they'd just stick to doing their job (stick to it? how about just do their job), we wouldn't be having this discussion because the bills wouldn't have been written, sponsored and tagged to the tail of our budget.

These guys are owned by special interests, which, as luck and coincidence would have it, are in their personal best interests as well.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Here is the article grannyeg referred to

Web Link

Thank you Boney - and yes is should read "an" not "and."

By the time they place a measure on the ballot with their double talking diluted Publice Records Act, there wil be no teeth with regards to enforecement. Oh, we will have to probably pay for the information we may be allowed.

It looks like this effort is dead and they are going for a Constitutional amendment.

Web Link

Here's another reason they don't want you to know what's going on. This article is from today's San Mateo Times. Note Half Moon Bay's part in this. The city not only pays the pensions for the 17 employees but also picks up the tab to the tune of for $46,000+ to pay the part that the employees themselves are supposed to contribute to their own pensions. This is just for last year. So flush with funds is the city of HMB. Your tax dollars at work. Anyone want to vote for another sales tax?

Web Link

Just another hand in the till.

Isn't it interesting that HMB is noted for paying the pensions for 17 employees when according to HMB's own budget, HMB only has 18.6 employees, 12 of which are administrators: Web Link , page 167 (or A 24).

One also has to wonder how it is that HMB is over $20 million in the red with respect to their contributions to Calpers, according to the Calpers expert they brought in last year to explain how it works and how much they owe.

So, according to the link precocious has provided us, HMB demonstrates the same generosity in retirement contributions as 50 other Bay Area governments, while at the same time is over $20 million in the red to the same Calpers - and all with only 18.6 employees, 2 of which haven't even been hired yet (Community Development Director & Deputy Clerk/Records Technician), leaving us with 16.6 City employees until those two positions are filled.

What a shell game. Isn't it amazing what one can accomplish with other people's money.

It's no wonder our dear legislators want to gut the Public Records Act. It's called CYA, among other things.

I sincerely hope this is the beginning of a revival among the media to question ALL sides or our political spectrum. I hope there is beginning to be a resumption of skeptical questioning rather than the Press version of crony capitalism. The Press has too often curled up at the feet of the favored political party, never questioning why its a bad idea to hand over so much power to The State.

I am sure The Party realizes their mistake was to attach this to a high profile bill. I am quite certain there will be another attempt to pass this, couched in obscure political language attached to a bill that the press will not be watching so carefully. Watch and see.

This is exactly what happened, in reverse, with the bill intended to stem the disgusting ADA lawsuits that have closed many small, often immigrant- owned businesses. It passed with the usual politicians chestbeating (after being shamed into passing this bill) and then, was gutted by the same politicians that California voters re-elect over and over and over again.

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