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THE NOONER for June 19, 2013
OPT OUT? Budget could limit public's access to government documents [Anthony York @ LAT] - "Gov. Jerry Brown is poised to sign legislation that could reduce the public's access to basic government records that have long been used to scrutinize the actions of elected officials. The proposal, a late insert into the state budget that lawmakers passed last week, would allow local officials to opt out of parts of the California law that gives citizens access to government documents."
The UT San Diego takes the effort against the bill a bit stronger, posting the governor's email address, Twitter handle and Facebook page in the middle of a news story. The OCR's Brian Joseph has a good story on the topic, although I know not many of you are behind the uber-strict Register paywall.
CHILL OUT! This story is less about policy change over policy records and rather the fiscal cat-and-mouse games between the state and local government. This follows the "sky is falling" outrage over the suspension of the Brown Act mandate last year. Meanwhile, city councils continue to meet in public.
Since the creation of the educational revenue augmentation fund in 1992, the state shifted local property tax dollars from local governments to schools and community colleges to help the state meeting the Proposition 98 guarantee. The state repeated the maneuver in the following year's budget and spent a decade tweaking it. Then, in 2002-03, much of ERAF was undone as part of the triple-flip, which cut sales tax to local governments by 0.25%, but let them receive some of ERAF property tax money back.
In the mid-2000s as the state budget recovered (albeit with the help of Proposition 57's deficit reduction bonds), local governments and the state seemed to be on bit better terms. However, cities wanted to gain greater protections from state funding raids, and qualified Proposition 65 for the ballot. Governor Schwarzenegger and the Legislature came to an agreement on a softer compromise ballot measure and gave it top billing on the November 2004 ballot as Proposition 1A. Prop. 65 was orphaned and Prop. 1A passed in a landslide.
After the Legislature found some "loopholes" or purposeful omission from Proposition 1A, the League of California Cities returned with a successful ballot measure in 2010. Some in the Capitol and the Department of Finance saw Proposition 22 as going back on the Prop. 1A compromise and, notably, protection of revelopment was left out of Prop. 22.
Jerry Brown arrived in town in 2010 with a budget mess that dwarfed that of earlier in the decade. He again returned to the ERAF idea, but because of Proposition 1A's limitations, a more circuitous route was taken by the elimination of redevelopment agencies. Redevelopment had been a mechanism for turning blight into bling, or from the governor's position, a way for local governments to sequester property tax money that would otherwise have gone to schools. Because of the Proposition 98 funding guarantee, generally for each property tax dollar not going to schools, the state's on the hook for a dollar of state general fund money.
Which brings us to state mandated local programs. The constitution requires the state to reimburse local governments of costs of complying with state laws. Local governments bring "test cases" before the Commission on State Mandates, after which the reimbursement spigot is opened. The LAO projects that the Public Records Act mandate would cost the state "tens of millions" annually if not controlled.
The state and local governments have been playing Whac-A-Mole, with local governments desperate to find new money for their coffers, while the state tries to whack down any way that it perceives reduces state revenues. Thus, more aggressive mandate reimbursement sought for expenses incurred under the Public Records Act caught the governor's eye (particularly tough to measure claims as these are soft costs), and he persuaded the Legislature to close the revenue center for local governments.
My friends in the media are using words like "gut" and "eviscerate" with relation to the trailer bill at issue, and I think I even saw the phrase "war on transparency." As you all know, I like transparency and have called for greater transparency in many parts of government. But this is about the state-local funding wrestling match, and easier access under the Public Records Act is only collateral damage.
The fact is that, yes, it does make timely assistance in getting records more difficult to the extent local governments return to pre-2000 practice. In 2000 and 2001, the Legislature expanded the PRA by requiring an initial response within 10 days and assistance with records requests, respectively. However, nothing in the trailer bill eliminates public access protections adopted in 1968 by the Legislature, as they preceded the state mandates requirements adopted in 1974.
Will the world end and all of our newspapers no longer have access to public information? Of course not. Will it slow down the process of accessing information? Perhaps. Does the budget decision have nothing to do with transparency and public records? Absolutely.
PAYWALL: Meanwhile, John Hrabe and Paul Mitchell have started a Twitter war over the value of paywalls to newspapers. Hrabe had the first tweet. The essential issue is whether government should pay portion of the cost to respond to a public records act, and then to lock the content of the request behind newspaper paywalls.
TOP HEADLINES ON AROUNDTHECAPITOL.COM AS OF 12:00PM
Budget Bill Would Make It Optional For California Local Governments To Comply With Public Records Laws
Annalise Mantz and Jeffrey Dastin @ sacbee.com
A budget bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature would make it optional for local governments to comply with several key provisions of the California Public Records Act. The change is intended to save the state money because it typically reimburses local agencies for providing services it mandates.
Steinberg To Endorse Dickinson For His Senate Seat
Melody Gutierrez @ blogs.sacbee.com
Senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg will be at Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's side when he announces his candidacy for Steinberg's Sacramento-area Senate seat on Wednesday.
Raises For State Workers Could Affect Decision On Governor's Pay
Patrick McGreevy @ latimes.com
Gov. Jerry Brown ’s new offer of a 4.5% pay raise to the largest state employee union could affect the decision of a citizens panel that meets Wednesday to decide whether to give salary increases to the governor and legislators.
Jerry Brown's Assault On Transparency
Robert Gammon @ eastbayexpress.com
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.
California's Latest Budget-Cutting Target: Public Records
Eliabeth Dwoskin @ businessweek.com
Jerry Brown, Californiaâs straight-talking two-time governor, is known for making hard and often unpopular choices in the name of fiscal discipline. The Democrat cut child-care subsidies for working mothers and pensions for the elderly. He raised taxes on the rich, which no one thought California voters could stomach. All this led him to accomplish a near-impossible task: balancing Californiaâs budget.
Brown Signs Bill To Launch Hiring Of Hundreds In Rancho Cordova
Jim Sanders @ blogs.sacbee.com
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to allow the hiring of hundreds of call center employees in Rancho Cordova and elsewhere to assist in selling medical insurance through the state's new health care exchange.
Steinberg to endorse Dickinson's Senate run
State Senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg will be at Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's side today when he announces his candidacy for Steinberg's Sacramento-area Senate seat.
Panel restores some pay for lawmakers, governor
The commission that sets the pay of California lawmakers and statewide elected officials such as the governor and attorney general has voted to restore a 5 percent pay cut it made to salaries last year as state employees faced furloughs.
Supreme Court Rulings On Doma, Prop. 8 Unlikely To End Matters
Wyatt Buchanan, Michael Collier, Richard Dunham, Bob Egelko, Joe Garofoli, Marisa Lagos, Carolyn Lochhead, Carla Marinucci, @ blog.sfgate.com
Supreme Court rulings on DOMA, Prop. 8 unlikely to end matters
California House Members Convene On Bay-delta Water Plan
Water brought California lawmakers together on Tuesday. Or, at least, it got a bunch of them in the same room.
Common Cause Leader Announces Run For Secretary Of State
Patrick McGreevy @ latimes.com
Derek Cressman is the newest candidate for California Secretary of State.
Sen. Mimi Walters Breaks Tax Pledge with $2.3 Billion Tax Vote
In 2007, Walters led the Taxpayer Protection Caucus in its effort to enforce "the tax pledge." The caucus was relentless in its criticism of Democrats and moderate GOP.
Jerry Brown Posts Banner Fundraising Week
David Siders @ blogs.sacbee.com
Gov. Jerry Brown did his best fundraising of the year last week, collecting in two days about what he raised in the previous three months.
California health care exchange cleared to hire in Rancho Cordova
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to allow the hiring of hundreds of call-center employees in Rancho Cordova and elsewhere to assist in selling medical insurance through California's new health care exchange.
Proposals Allowing 55% Vote For Local Taxes Sidetracked
Patrick McGreevy @ latimes.com
Proposals to lower the voter-approval threshold for various local tax increases from two-thirds to 55% got sidetracked Tuesday, with even some Democrats saying more consideration is needed.
Budget Goodies Not So Good For Open Process
Dan Morain @ sacbee.com
No matter whether it's called budget dust, Christmas tree ornaments or bling, the massive $145 billion state budget and 22 trailer bills that implement it are crammed with stuff, much of it added with little public airing.
Dan Walters Daily
Amy Gebert @ blogs.sacbee.com
What will Gov. Jerry Brown's course of action be, Dan wonders, as he faces pressure to veto provisions that his own Department of Finance wanted in the budget.
Antonio Villaraigosa: 'i Fully Expect' To Run For Governor Someday
James Rainey @ latimes.com
Outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday gave one of his most specific hints about his continuing interest in running for California governor -- telling KPCC radio host Larry Mantle that he wants the job and expects to run one day.
Report: Humanities, Social Science Education Needed Along With Stem
A workforce lacking robust a humanities and social science education could be just as detrimental to the country’s future economic competitiveness as one deficient in science and technological expertise, according to an American Academy of Arts and Sciences report released Wednesday.
Border Security: Will It Block A Final Deal On Immigration?
Alex Altman @ swampland.time.com
As the bill to rewrite U.S. immigration laws edges closer to a vote in the Senate, its architects are wrestling with a familiar dilemma: how far should they go to mollify critics and attract new supporters, without wrecking the bipartisan compromise that took months to forge?
Old Guard, Young Blood Clash In Salinas' Halls Of Power
Mike Anton @ latimes.com
Generations' worth of racial and class tensions bubble up as a defiant young Latino politician takes on the city's power brokers. His hero? A 19th century outlaw.
Proposal On 'Big-Box' Stores Heads To Sacramento City Council For Debate
Ryan Lillis @ sacbee.com
A proposal to ease restrictions on "big-box" superstores in the city of Sacramento moved forward Tuesday and is now headed for what will likely be a politically charged debate before the City Council.