July 24, 2012 in Uncategorized By: Dave Emerson
(7/24/2012, Los Alamitos) by Terry Francke of CaliforniansAware, “The Center for Public Forum Rights.”)
The Brown Act, which requires California cities, counties, school boards and special districts to conduct their meetings openly and with adequate advance notice, has had some of its key protections suspended indefinitely by the state legislature.
The reason: there is no money to reimburse these local agencies for their claimed costs of composing and posting a meaningful agenda and disclosing actions taken in closed sessions.
That reimbursement is constitutionally required.
The only way to change that requirement is to amend the constitution. The only way to amend the constitution is to place a proposition to do so on the statewide ballot so the voters can approve it. A legislative bill to do just that—Senate Constitutional Amendment (SCA) 7—has been passed by unanimous bipartisan votes in the Senate and in the first of two committees in the Assembly.
But that bill sits sidelined in the Assembly Appropriations Committee since late last summer, supposedly because it would cost too much just to do the processing to get it on the ballot.
That excuse is dubious at best. The Senate Appropriations Committee, bound to uphold exactly the same spending discipline standards as its Assembly counterpart, found no such cost obstacle and passed the bill promptly last year.
And after all, the amendment proposed by SCA 7 would free state government from future annual reimbursement claims that have recently been amounting to $20 million per year!
The Assembly committee holding SCA 7 is dominated by Democrats, and they are answerable to Speaker Pérez. A directive from him could see SCA 7 voted out of committee and onto the Senate Floor, where Republicans would support it as readily as they have up to now.
Or the committee members themselves—Democrats and Republicans—could send SCA 7 to the Assembly floor on their own initiative, there to be placed on the ballot with the same overwhelming support the bill has earned so far.
Make no mistake—once given the chance, the people of California would make the Brown Act’s open government protections safe in the constitution from the state’s sorry budget dramas. Please sign this petition to tell Speaker Pérez to use his power and Free SCA 7.
Thanks to Council Member Warren Kusumoto for calling this to our attention.