Capitol Alert: Legislature changing course on Public Records Act challenge

mgutierrez@sacbee.comJune 19, 2013 

Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, points to the desk of Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose before legislators are sworn in during the first day of session at the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012.

HECTOR AMEZCUA — hamezcua@sacbee.com

Battered by criticism from open government activists, the Assembly will vote Thursday to undo a budget bill that made some provisions of the state's Public Records Act optional for local governments.

In a statement Wednesday, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said the Assembly will move Senate Bill 71 without the records act changes requested by Gov. Jerry Brown .

"To be clear, this means that the California Public Records Act will remain intact without any changes as part of the budget - consistent with the Assembly's original action," Pérez said.

John Vigna, spokesman for Perez's office, said the Assembly "tried to stop" AB 76, one of several bills in the budget packet for the coming fiscal year.

"We didn't succeed and it was part of the (budget) package," Vigna said.

If the Senate and the Assembly send Brown SB 71, the governor will have to choose which bill to sign -- the one with the records act changes or SB 71.

AB 76, which both houses passed on party-line votes last week, would make multiple provisions in the records act "optional best practices," instead of a mandate that requires the state to reimburse local agencies for complying.

Brown proposed the change to the records act in his January budget proposal as a way to save tens of millions of dollars. A Senate subcommittee approved the provision in April, while an Assembly subcommittee rejected it in May. The budget conference committee approved a compromise by the Legislative Analysts Office, which was OK'd by both houses.

The budget bill is now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature. Newspaper editorials across the state call are calling on Brown to veto it.

"Because we fought against it and there was nary a peep for six months, this wasn't exactly on our radar screen when everyone started writing about it in the last few days," Vigna said.

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