OPEN GOVERNMENT — The Senate Rules Committee has approved a request by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) to establish a Select Committee on Californias Public Records and Open Meeting Laws, of which Yee will chair. Select committees study complex issues rather than considering particular bills, but their work may lead to legislation.
I am looking forward to chairing this select committee and ensuring that state and local government agencies adhere and embrace our transparency laws, said Yee. This committee will examine ways to increase public access to government documents and proceedings, and will protect tax dollars by fostering greater accountability of scarce public resources.
While California may have some of the best open government laws, we do not have the best rates of compliance by public agencies, said Yee. It is disheartening to see so many cases in which members of the public or media outlets are denied government records, especially at a time when it is so critical that tax dollars are spent wisely.
What others are saying:
With this action right on the heels of Sunshine Week, the Legislature could not give better recognition to the reality that governmental transparency has now become a concern worthy of the continuing study and review of policy-makers at the highest level. From our perspective, the number one issue is the fact that the open meeting and public information laws can be enforced only by suing the government, which can resist in court for months or years using taxpayer funds to fight taxpayers. Terry Francke, General Counsel for Californians Aware
This is historic in the sense that Senator Yee will chair a committee that will chart the course to ensure that all Californians will have confidence in their government through greater transparency. Willie Pelote, Assistant Director of Political Action for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
The establishment of the Select Committee on California's Public Records and Open Meeting Law is a crucial and necessary step toward rebuilding the public's trust in our state institutions. The public should not have to sue to obtain public records from state agencies. For too long, the University of California has denied basic information related to its finances. The Committee needs to examine, more closely, UC's practice of denying the public information. Lakesha Harrison, President of AFSCME Local 3299
This is great news. There are dozens of issues the committee should explore, but perhaps none more important than the continuing barriers the public faces when it attempts to access electronically held public records and electronic communications of public officials. Tom Newton, General Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association
As an organization who has witnessed several violations of our states open government laws, we applaud the establishment of this select committee and look forward to working with Senator Yee to help bring greater transparency to the University of California and other public agencies. Geri Jenkins, Co-President of the California Nurses Association