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Editorial: Proposition 42 will protect the public’s access to government records

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Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2014 12:00 am

Our right to obtain public records, whether they be public salaries or business licenses, shouldn’t be subject to a financial tug-of-war between state and local governments.

Yet that’s the case now. Proposition 42 would end the bickering and embed in the state Constitution the public’s right to know.

Currently, the Constitution requires the state to reimburse local governments for complying with open government laws. In other words, the Constitution says the state has to pay local governments for doing the right thing, for providing fundamental transparency.

As you might imagine, reimbursement creates a welter of varying charges and processes. Some believe local governments pump up the amount they charge for complying with the open meeting laws because, well, it’s all going to be covered by Sacramento anyway.

This leads to much bickering between the local agencies and the state.

Last summer, state lawmakers infamously tried to save money by making compliance with the open record optional. With compliance optional, reimbursements would go down and the state would save money.

The result, of course, would be an expansion of secrecy.

After an uproar by open government advocates, including the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Legislature crafted Proposition 42.

The proposition enshrines in the Constitution both the state Public Records Act and the Brown Act, which requires open meetings. It places the costs for compliance, which are typically moderate, squarely on the agencies themselves.

We’re not fond of state mandates, and there are those who feel this is among them.

But is this truly an unreasonable burden? Why should the state pay for Lodi or Galt or Lodi Unified School District to provide fundamental transparency?

If you favor your government bathed in sunshine instead of shadow, as we do, you should vote for Proposition 42.

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