Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign SB71 into law this week. What is SB71? It’s a proposal to allow local government agencies to no longer obey key provisions of California’s Public Records Act, better known to most as the Freedom of Information Act.
Currently, when citizens request information and public records from local government, local agencies must comply with their request within 10 days or explain why they can’t.
Under the guise of saving the state money, the governor and legislature with a sneaky last minute amendment to the budget have voted to suspend the “Public’s Right to Know” what its government is doing.
Saying it’s too costly to reimburse local governments for following through on the state mandate, Brown and company decided to make the mandate an option that local municipalities can take or leave, depending on what best suits their interests.
Does this band of so-called people’s advocates really think local municipalities will comply with public information requests in a timely and thorough manner if there is no real mandate or incentive to do so?
We have to wonder how far the Bell corruption scandal investigators and reporters would have gotten if they couldn’t access public records.
Just last week, the FBI raided the offices of a Montebello legislator and a water district board. Presumably those investigations involve the awarding of contracts paid for with taxpayer money. However, individuals and news organizations using documentation obtained through public record requests first brought many if not most of the cases involving public corruption and wrongdoing to light.
Why is it that the Public’s Right to Know constantly comes under attack under the guise of saving money, and other questionable but sacred expenditure favorites of elected officials — like pay raises and contracts for friends and allies —rarely get attention?
We don’t believe that all local governments will refuse to provide requested information, but some will, and it’s likely to be those that have something to hide, and that should concern all of us.
The governor’s convenient naiveté in thinking suspending California’s Public Records Act will not have any significant consequences, shows how little the people really matter to him in the grand scheme of things—and it is a scheme— that go on in Sacramento, especially when it comes to representing the interests of the people who elected him and his pack of co-conspirators who voted to suspend the state’s public information law.
Then again, maybe they are all just looking ahead to when term limits will send them back to local government posts.