As we celebrate Sunshine Week — the newspaper industry’s annual celebration of transparency in government — The Desert Sun strongly encourages you to do so. Open meetings and open records are essential to democracy.
California made a commitment to open meetings in 1953 with the approval of the Ralph M. Brown Act, named for an assemblyman from Modesto. In 1967, the Bagley-Green Open Meeting Act expanded Brown Act regulations to all state agencies.California passed its version of the federal Freedom of Information Act in 1968. The California Open Records Act requires disclosure of governmental records to the public upon request within 10 days, unless there is a specific reason not to do so. In 2004, Proposition 59 made access to open records a civil right under the state constitution.
Over the years, the question of who pays for the cost of compliance with these acts has been up in the air — despite the passage of Proposition 4 in 1979, which declared that when the Legislature or another state agency imposes a mandate the state must reimburse them. In 2004, Proposition 1A gave state leaders the power to suspend reimbursements during a fiscal crisis.
An outrageous decision
In approving the 2013-14 state budget, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown continued the suspension of 50 mandates and added nine more — including reimbursement for complying with open meeting and open records laws. The decision made compliance optional.his sparked a storm of protest from newspaper editors across the state, including a letter from Desert Sun Executive Editor Greg Burton. The governor and Legislature quickly backed down and restored the mandate.
Shortly thereafter, both houses of the Legislature voted unanimously to place a constitutional amendment on the June ballot to require that local government agencies comply and pay for the costs. It’s now known as Proposition 42.
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LINK>California Proposition 42, Compliance of Local Agencies with Public Records (2014) Ballotpedia
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