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New: Ask the Governor to veto SB 71 (Comment)

By Bruce Joffe
Thursday June 20, 2013 - 09:00:00 AM

When California's budget passed last week, it included several "trailer" bills that modify the budget according to various Legislators' particular interests. One trailer, SB 91, would destroy the Public Records Act by making compliance Optional, if Sections 4 and 118 of SB 71 are signed into law.

It is critical for governmental transparency and accountability that government records be available to the public in the same format that the government uses to make its decisions. The public must have the opportunity to analyze the government's data in order to understand and possibly challenge decisions. This is a foundation of democracy.

A picture of electronic records (in .pdf format) is not equivalent to the actual data in its database format. While governmental data can be searched, sorted and analyzed, a .pdf picture of that data can not be. The public needs to analyze a public agency's data exactly as the agency has done, to insure accountability. Public access to governmental data is too important to our democracy to allow it to be subverted by SB 71.

Section 6253.9 of the Public Record Act says public agencies must provide their data to the public upon request in the format that they use it. Since their data is already in these formats, there is no cost to providing it to PRA requesters. There is no budgetary justification in making the PRA requirement optional.

Email the Governor to veto Sections 4 and 118 of SB 71 (