OPEN MEETINGS -- Even as spokesmen for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders deny that the Governor's closed-door luncheon for the lawmakers at a private club after his State of the State address violated laws requiring open meetings of the legislature, the admitted facts make these protestations incredible.

The California Constitution requires that "the proceedings of each house and the committees thereof shall be open and public" with four exceptions: discussions of personnel actions, Capitol security, pending litigation or party caucus issues. It requires that implementing rules be spelled out by resolution or statute.  The implementing statute, Government Code Section 9027, provides:

Except as otherwise provided in this article, all meetings of a house of the Legislature or of a committee shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend the meetings.  As used in this article, "meeting" means a gathering of a quorum of the members of a house or a committee in one place for the purpose of discussing legislative or other official matters within the jurisdiction of the house or committee. . .

According to a report by the Associated Press,

Whether a quorum of lawmakers gathered at the lunch remains
undetermined. Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said roughly 70
lawmakers—a majority of the total Assembly and Senate membership—attended, but he said he could not provide their names.
''There's no comprehensive list that exists of the people who were there,'' McLear said.

All four legislative leaders—the top Democrats and Republicans of the Assembly and Senate—attended the lunch.

Representatives
for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, could not say how many of
their members were there.

''We did not keep a roll call of
members in attendance to the lunch simply because it was a lunch. No
business was discussed,'' said Tony Beard Jr., the sergeant-at-arms for
the Senate. ''It did not violate any rules or laws in that context.''

Exactly who attended is irrelevant to the legal issue. The estimated head count of "roughly 70" legislators would mean that a quorum (majority) of at least one and possibly both houses was present, since an Assembly majority is 41 and a Senate majority is 21.  That "official matters within the jurisdiction of" both houses was discussed—and that lawmakers knew it would be in advance—is evident from the wording of the Governor's invitation explaining the purpose of the luncheon: "'I plan to lay out some bold ideas for helping our great state through
this troubled time and building an even brighter future, and I don't
doubt that we will have plenty to talk about.''

At least the Assembly leadership reportedly saw the issue beforehand, and got a legal cautioning about it. Sacramento Bee blogger Kevin Yamamura noted yesterday,

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger needs to count heads at his 1 p.m. private luncheon today for state lawmakers at the Sutter Club in downtown Sacramento.
That's because the Legislative Counsel has told the Assembly informally that the governor can't discuss policy matters if a majority of either the Assembly or Senate attends, according to Shannon Murphy, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.

Comment: Arnold Schwarzenegger was California's first gubernatorial candidate to make open government an explicit and emphatic priority pledge in his campaign. The Legislature rationalized excluding itself from Proposition 59, the open government constitutional amendment, on grounds that it was already subject to a constitutional mandate to meet openly.  One is tempted to say that both host and guests breaking bread yesterday behind closed doors broke faith with those who elected them, but then they may have already written off what little faith and trust they enjoy outside the 95814 ZIP code. Their calm disregard for both the law and the appearance of respect for it offers a clear snapshot—more vivid than any TelePrompted speech could convey—of the true state of the State.