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Governor, Legislature agree to fix records bill

Posted: June 21, 2013 9:00 a.m.
Updated: June 21, 2013 9:00 a.m.
 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Seeking to quell a media outcry over access to public records, the governor's administration on Thursday said it agrees with a fix-it bill moving through the Legislature that restores a mandate for local governments to comply with document requests.

The governor's spokesman, Evan Westrup, told The Associated Press that the governor's office supports the new approach taken by the Democratic leaders in the Assembly and Senate.

The leaders have pledged to undo language that threatened the public's access to government documents. The language is contained in a budget bill the Legislature approved last week and sent to the governor.

Earlier Thursday, the Assembly passed legislation that restores the local government mandate for complying with the state Public Records Act, and the Senate leader then said his house will take up the bill soon.

"We support the legislative leaders' approach, which will eliminate uncertainty about local compliance with the law and, on a permanent basis, ensure that local government pays for what has long been its explicit responsibility," Westrup said.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez said a longer-term fix would be in the form of a constitutional amendment that ensures public access to documents while requiring that local governments pay for complying with the law.

Media outlets throughout California had objected over part of the bill passed last week, known as AB76. It relieved the state of its responsibility for reimbursing the costs incurred by local governments and other agencies, such as water and school districts, when they receive records requests from the media or the public.

In doing so, the Legislature made complying with the records act optional, rather than required, and encouraged the local bodies to follow "best practices" in releasing information.

Numerous editorials lambasted the action and urged Gov. Jerry Brown to veto the bill.

In a joint statement Thursday, Steinberg and Perez said both legislative chambers see the need for a short-term fix to ensure public records remain accessible.

"As the Senate advances its proposed constitutional amendment, the Assembly will work with them throughout its process to give voters the chance to make clear that good government shouldn't come with an extra price tag," the leaders said.

A proposed constitutional amendment passed by the Legislature this year would most likely go on the statewide ballot in 2014.

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