Budget Bill Threatens Public Records Access In California
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Aired 6/18/13 on KPBS News.
An amendment added to a state budget trailer puts access to public records at risk.
UPDATE, June 19: KQED in Northern California is reporting that the trailer bill is set to be amended and language that would change the California Public Records Act will no longer be included.
Last-minute language introduced into a trailer bill to California’s state budget would seriously threaten government transparency.
Peter Scheer, executive director of California’s First Amendment Coalition, said the amendment is meant to cut costs, but it would actually eliminate the public’s ability to get information with public records requests.
“If that agency wishes to deny the request, under current law, they have to give you some reasons,“ Scheer said. “But under the new law, they don’t have to give you any reasons at all. They simply say ‘denied.’”
Scheer said the proposed amendment would allow government agencies to skirt the spirit of the Public Records Act.
“We should call it the 'useless data provision,'” he said. “Agencies will have the discretion to give you data, only in some format that cannot be used in a database so you won’t be able to analyze the data, even though the agency might have it in the format you want. “
Governor Jerry Brown has until the end of the month to either approve or veto the bill as part of the state's operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.