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Jerry Brown’s Assault on Transparency

June 20, 2013

By : eastbayexpress – excerpt

The governor and state legislative leaders struck a backroom deal to eviscerate portions of California’s public records law. Plus, Big Oil and Gas defeat fracking bills.

When he was mayor of Oakland, Jerry Brown was never a fan of transparency and openness in government. He made a habit of blocking access to public records back then, and his staff destroyed reams of public documents before he left City Hall in late 2006. So it was no surprise that Governor Brown’s administration worked behind closed doors in recent weeks with state Democratic leaders to gut key aspects of California’s open records law.

As reported by the Bay Area News Group (BANG) last weekend, legislative leaders quietly tucked a last-minute bill that weakens the California Public Records Act into the package of budget legislation for the next fiscal year. The public records bill, as result, was never vetted publicly; it never went through legislative committees like other bills do. “This is the worst assault on the public’s right to know I have seen in my eighteen years of doing this,” Jim Ewert, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publisher’s Association, told BANG.

The bill, which Brown is expected to sign into law before June 30, would allow local governments and public agencies to reject public records requests without citing a reason. It also would let local governments ignore the current requirement that they respond to records requests within ten days….

Democratic leaders who worked in secret on the bill that would eviscerate the public’s right to know… East Bay state Senators Loni Hancock and Mark DeSaulnier… the lone Bay Area Democratic senator who voted against the legislation, Leland Yee of San Francisco… (more)

How this will effect city rules governing sunshine requirements will depend on whether their laws depend on state statutes for remedies. This change will make it much more difficult for ordinary citizens to get information on how their government is functioning. Lawyers will need to serve subpoenas to get documents that the government does not want to hand over.

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