Update on open-government legislative proposals in Sacramento

SB 1732
SB 1732
, sponsored and campaigned for by Senator Gloria Romero, would overturn the 2006 ruling in Wolf v. City of Fremont that significantly weakened the prohibition against serial meetings.

Serial meetings are informal meetings that take place outside of formal public meetings between public official either in person, by proxy or by telephone or email in an attempt to discuss public business without being subject to public scrutiny. Serial meetings are prohibited under the Brown Act, which governs meetings of local agencies.

SB 1732 says that officials ‘shall not discuss, deliberate or take action on many item of business’ outside of public meetings. The Senate passed the bill in a bi-partisan vote of 32-0.

Part of what helped pass the bill was work done by groups like CFAC, CalAware, the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association and Senator Romero to ensure that the language of the bill was clear. To this end, agencies’ staff members will continue to be allowed to individually brief members of a public body so long as they do not share the comments or positions of other members.

The bill will be heard by the Assembly sometime in June.

AJR 60
Assemblymembers Mark Leno and Noreen Evans filed Assembly Joint Resolution 60 last week, which urges Congress to enact a federal shield law for journalists. Co-authors include Senators Carol Migden and Tom Torlakson. AJR 60 is expected to be voted on this summer.

AB 1958
In 1978, the Confidential Records Program was enacted to shield peace officers’ addresses from the public for the officers’ protection. Since then the list of people protected under the program has been expanded to include the Attorney General, members of the legislature, veterinarians employed by the zoo, and many others.

Originally, this program kept DMV records private. But, since 1989 all DMV records have been protected from the public. Now, this program serves to further block contact and license plate information from ticketing and fine enforcers.

The OC Register recently brought to light the abuses that this system could be subject to. People that are shielded in the program are able to avoid traffic and parking laws.

Assemblymember Todd Spitzer declared that we would bring forth legislation to penetrate this veil of secrecy and go after abusers of the program. However, AB 1958, brought by Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, is seeking to expand the program to include firefighters and housing code enforcement.

AB 772
Assemblymember Bonnie Garcia sponsored AB 772 to require that charter schools include in their petition to create a school the assurance that they would comply either with the Brown Act, governing the meetings of local agencies, or the Bagley-Keene Act, governing the meetings of state agencies.

The bill is also sponsored by the California Charter School Association, which has encouraged its members to adopt and follow Brown Act regulations.

The bill was approved in the Assembly Education Committee and is now awaiting review in the Appropriations Committee.

AB 2917
A series of stories in the Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times and Bakersfield Californian exposed the misconduct that was taking place among some Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), who are largely unaccountable for their actions.

AB 2917, from Assemblymember Alberto Torrico, aims to rectify this problem by creating more tracking of EMTs. However, the bill includes an over-arching public records exemption for reports of misconduct.

Though the Governor vetoed a similar bill last year, he is expected to sign AB 2917 if it reaches his desk.