This op-ed was originally published by KCET.
By Associate Clinical Professor Jessica A. Levinson
Doing absolutely nothing to help their already dismal public approval ratings, the state Assembly has refused requests--submitted under the Legislative Open Records Act--to release records of legislators' 2010 and 2011 budgets (money given to rank and file legislators by the leadership) and expenditures. Now The Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times are suing to obtain those records.
The newspapers argue that the budget and spending records document public resources used for public business, and should be released based on a constitutional right to access information about government activities.
The Assembly Rules Committee, on the other hand, claims that it need not release those documents because the records fall under exceptions to the Legislative Open Records Act for "correspondence of and to individual members of the Legislature and their staff," and "preliminary drafts, notes or legislative memoranda." An Assembly administrator has argued that the records of lawmakers' current budgets and spending could contain confidential personnel information. Basically, the Assembly Rules Committee claims that those documents, which detail use of public funds by public officials, are privileged.
Read the complete post at KCET.org.