This broad-stroke cut has put in doubt the future of California’s open meeting laws, passed by voters under Proposition 59. Without funding, the Brown Act is widely considered suspended.
The League of Cities hasn’t heard of anyone trying to take advantage of the suspension. CSAC considers the open-meeting mandate suspended.
The cut would save the state more than $170 million in the coming year, including millions in savings resulting from claims filed in previous years.
But the savings doesn’t seem to justify the cut to open-government advocates, who are worried that the lack of funding will set back the state’s fifty-plus year progress on open meetings.
Constitutional amendments are already being proposed to ensure the continuation of open meetings, even if the budget ceases to fund them.
From the San Jose Mercury News and Associated Press:
Gov. Jerry Brown’s efforts to cut state spending could jeopardize one of the cornerstones of California’s open records laws-the requirement that government bodies give the public fair notice about meetings.
The state Legislature already suspended the funding that local governments receive for posting public notices by omitting the money from last year’s budget. Now Brown wants to suspend it for the entire 2011-12 fiscal year, leaving the mandate in legal limbo and raising the prospect that some local government bodies will stop complying altogether.
Voters in 2004 overwhelmingly approved Proposition 59, which amended the California Constitution to give the public access to information about the people’s business, requiring that meetings of public bodies and records of public officials and agencies shall be open to the public.
But because of a lawsuit against the state over unfunded mandates to local governments, the state is required to pay for the costs of following the open meetings law, which they claim runs into tens of millions of dollars a year for things such as photocopying agendas, posting them online and e-mailing members of the public.
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