March 22, 2011 — The more citizens are engaged with their government — whether at the local, state or federal level — the more openly, honestly and effectively that government tends to operate. That’s why each year the American Society of News Editors and the James L. Knight Foundation spearhead Sunshine Week, a national effort to promote public dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.
As we mark Sunshine Week 2011 this week, it appears a component of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget will address the chronic problem of the Legislature de-funding the Ralph M. Brown Act, making compliance with its key provisions optional for thousands of local public legislative bodies. The Brown Act is California’s open meeting law.
The California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA), of which Feather Publishing is a member, has been working for some time now to fix the act’s funding problem by amending the state Constitution to make notice of meetings a constitutional requirement for local government, not subject to state reimbursement. Lack of funding in last year’s budget has jeopardized the act’s agenda posting and reporting requirements by making them optional (i.e., an unfunded mandate). The likelihood the state will reimburse the $20 million/year costs in this year’s budget and restore the Brown Act is slim to none.
CNPA is the sponsor of SCA 7 (Yee), which, if approved by two-thirds of the Legislature, would put the question to voters of whether to amend the Constitution to require notice of meetings and thereby eliminate the state mandated local program. Because of deadlines, even if approved by the Legislature, that vote would likely not occur until the June 2012 presidential primary election.
With that background, we’re pleased to report that Gov. Jerry Brown released a proposed budget trailer bill recently that would amend the state Constitution to authorize realignment of state and local government responsibilities and funding. While the bill has not yet been formally introduced and assigned a bill number as a Senate or Assembly constitutional amendment, the proposal drafted by legislative counsel contains language that will eliminate the Brown Act funding problem and secure the Brown Act into the future.
Meanwhile, Sen. Yee’s SCA 7 will be held in abeyance, but remain available if the Brown Act provision somehow does not make the final budget cut. As a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment, the bill will require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature before it is presented to voters at the proposed June 2011 special election.
While there are huge policy and political issues associated with the ultimate budget solution, we are pleased to have this Brown Act component in the mix.
|< Prev||Next >|