1st Amendment News

CPRA Switcheroo: Assembly cuts CPRA threats from Budget Bill, but Senate won’t sign revised bill

Jerry Brown, John Perez, Darrell Steinberg, Photo: Associated PressOpen government advocates outraged over changes to the CPRA in the Budget Bill thought they had something to cheer about when Assembly Speaker John Perez  announced today that the Assembly had amended the version of SB 71 that contained the CPRA found in AB 76 and would vote on the revised Bill tomorrow.

“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,” Speaker Perez said.

For advocates it seemed as though their efforts to defended the public’s right to access to government records had been heard.

Unfortunately, the cheers for Perez and the Assembly were quickly silenced  when California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D – Sacramento) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Senator Mark Leno (D – San Francisco) issued a statement  about the Senate’s next move:

 “The State Senate will not revisit the issues in Assembly Bill 76, unless there is evidence that locally-elected officials aren’t complying with the statutes that they were elected and expected to uphold.”

So if the Senate will not accept the Assembly’s concession–prompted by an outpouring of voter outrage– to amend the language in Assembly Bill 76 and accept the language they themselves had produced in Senate Bill 71, what happens to CPRA?  Jim Ewert of the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) explained the mechanics of what happens next.

“Since a bill must be passed In identical form by both houses before it can be sent to the Governor, by not allowing it to be taken up for a vote by the Senate.  Steinberg has effectively killed SB 71. Regardless of tomorrow’s vote by the Assembly.  If the Governor signs the Budget Bill [that now contains the threatening changes to the CPRA], the CPRA will be suspended,” Ewert said.

Instead of immediately restoring the CPRA by signing the Assembly’s revision of the Budget Bill, tomorrow the State Senate will introduce a Constitutional Amendment, which will require permanent restoration of all California Public Records Act mandates in the state budget, and require that all local government entities pay for those services of providing public access to local government records.

According to the statement issued by Leno and Steinberg, the Constitutional amendment will go before the voters a year from now.

 

“Rather than row back, we should step forward. Senate Democrats will present a Constitutional Amendment for the Legislature’s consideration, with a view to putting the issue before the voters on the June 2014 statewide ballot. In the interim, the State Senate will not revisit the issues in Assembly Bill 76, unless there is evidence that locally-elected officials aren’t complying with the statutes that they were elected and expected to uphold.”

The Budget Bill is on Governor Brown’s desk awaiting his signature.

 

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