SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Legislative leaders on Friday took a long-term step to end a controversy over access to documents, introducing a constitutional amendment to mandate that local governments comply with the California Public Records Act.
The proposed amendment also specifies that the state would not have to reimburse those governments for the cost of complying with the law, potentially saving the general fund millions of dollars a year. The Senate is expected to take up SCA3 next week.
The move by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, comes after Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown backtracked on a bill included in the budget package that was approved last week.
That bill would have made compliance with the records law optional for local governments, which led to a public outcry that the provision could allow governments to keep public information secret or not respond to requests for records.
The Assembly removed the contentious part of the legislation and re-voted on the bill Thursday, and the Senate is expected to do the same next week. Brown’s administration has indicated he will sign the revised bill.
Brown, a Democrat, had sought the changes to avoid a requirement that the state reimburse local governments for complying with requests under the California Public Records Act.
Leno said the constitutional amendment would permanently uphold the right of Californians to “inspect public records and attend public meetings.”
“The state should not have to provide a fiscal incentive to local governments so that they comply with these important transparency laws,” he said in a statement.
The amendment needs two-thirds support in both legislative chambers to pass. If approved, it would appear on the June 2014 ballot for voter ratification.
The measure would not affect lawmakers, who are subject to their own Legislative Open Records Act, a far more restrictive law that allows the Legislature to avoid releasing many documents.
SCA3 is included in a “gut-and-amend” bill that formerly sought to lower the threshold for local parcel tax approval.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.