Every yr, governors and state legislators load up funds that supposedly implement the state funds with all sorts of extracurricular provisions benefiting these to whom they owe favors.
They use these “trailer bills” because of they’re usually, and generally have been, handed in a short while after being drafted, thereby concealing their goodies from public scrutiny until they’re safely enacted.
After a number of years of such shenanigans, some reformers lastly positioned a measure on the ballot to require 72-hour uncover sooner than funds can have their remaining votes. The Capitol’s politicians didn’t favor it, and have managed to partially bypass it, nevertheless it’s nonetheless on the books.
It’s an occasion of how California politicians pay lip service to open authorities, nevertheless mainly need secrecy.
Two new examples of the hostility to airing the public’s enterprise have arisen, every dealing with one different state regulation, the Public Records Act (PRA), which, with a few specified exceptions, requires official paperwork to be public.
One is Senate Bill 615 by Sen. Ben Hueso, a Chula Vista Democrat, which could make it way more troublesome to compel state and native companies to modify to PRA requests.
It’s common for companies to stonewall or drag their ft on requests for paperwork beneath the regulation, notably as soon as they is probably going to be embarrassing to officialdom
The PRA doesn’t have an computerized enforcement mechanism, so definitely considered one of the few strategies journalists and others can drive the problem is through the courts.
Hueso’s bill, nonetheless, would compel these requesting paperwork to bear a sequence of preliminary hoops, drive them to present in courtroom that companies stalled compliance “knowingly, willfully and without substantial justification,” and make it tougher to purchase approved costs from companies that lose lawsuits.
Hueso’s office says the bill, launched at the request of the San Diego metropolis lawyer’s office, is geared towards streamlining the PRA course of, nevertheless people who make use of the regulation say it’s an obvious try to undermine the regulation.
James Ewert, a lawyer for the California News Publishers Association, knowledgeable Voice of San Diego, the native info web site that blew the whistle on Hueso’s measure, “If Sen. Hueso is trying to make it more difficult for members of the public to get info about their government, this will be a smashing success.”
The second assault on the PRA is being waged by one different Democrat, Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Although a model new regulation requires info of police misconduct to be made public, Becerra has stiffed requests for particulars about the investigators in his office and is threatening approved, and even felony, movement in opposition to one journalistic group that managed to purchase some info.
UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program used the PRA to purchase nearly 12,000 names of regulation enforcement officers or candidates who had devoted crimes ranging from shoplifting to murder.
Those convictions themselves are problems with public file, and the compilation acquired right here from the Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) by a PRA request.
Becerra then demanded that the info be returned or destroyed, saying they shouldn’t have been launched, and warned that “unauthorized receipt or possession” of the information is a misdemeanor.
“If you do not intend to comply with our request, the department can take legal action,” the Department of Justice knowledgeable the journalists.
So Becerra is telling us that we shouldn’t know that 1000’s of cops have devoted crimes and is threatening to prosecute people who defy him.
Sunshine, it’s been acknowledged, is the most interesting disinfectant for official misconduct — nevertheless clearly Hueso and Becerra would love to keep us in the dark.
CALmatters is a public curiosity journalism enterprise devoted to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it points. For additional tales by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary