Gov. Brown and Sen. Steinberg Reverse Course to Restore Public Records Act

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, left, and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, right, with Gov. Jerry Brown during a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif., June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) (Rich Pedroncelli)

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, left, and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, right, with Gov. Jerry Brown during a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif., June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) (Rich Pedroncelli)

After two days of public outcry Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez announced that the Senate will take up the revised Senate Bill 71, which removes changes to the California Public Records Act, passed by the Assembly. On Tuesday morning it looked like Governor Brown and Senator Steinberg were not going to budge on the changes to the PRA included in budget trailer bill AB 76 that made compliance with key provisions of the act voluntary.

The passage of the changes to the PRA had generated a firestorm of criticism from open government advocates and media outlets up and down the state. The criticism had the desired effect causing the Assembly on Thursday morning to pass an amended version of SB 71, a duplicate to AB 76 which gutted the PRA, that restored the Act to its current mandatory status. But for most of the day yesterday, the Senate and Governor Brown refused to move on the revisions with Steinberg stating that the Senate would instead propose a constitutional amendment to make compliance with the act mandatory for placement before the voters in November 2014.

But yesterday afternoon, Senator Steinberg and Speaker Perez announced that they had reached an agreement. In a joint statement released to the media, Steinberg announced:

“We agree there needs to be both an immediate fix to ensure local entities comply with the California Public Records Act and a long term solution so the California Public Records Act is not considered a reimbursable mandate. Accordingly, the Senate will take up the amended SB 71 passed by the Assembly today that removed changes in the budget regarding the California Public Records Act. As the Senate advances its proposed constitutional amendment, the Assembly will work with them throughout its process to give voters the chance to make clear that good government shouldn’t come with an extra price tag.”

The governor’s office also announced support Thursday afternoon for both the Assembly and Senate plans.

This is a victory for government transparency. With the restoration of the Public Records Act to its existing strength supporters of open government and transparency will not have to take it on blind faith that local governments will comply with the California Public Records Act.

Voice of OC has a good rundown on this story here.