Legislation tucked into the state budget bill would "eviscerate" the public's ability to track tax dollars and hold local officials accountable, open government advocates charged Friday.
"This is the worst assault on the public's right to know I have seen in my 18 years of doing this," said Jim Ewert, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publisher's Association, said Friday as the bill appeared headed for passage.
Language inserted into a budget bill on Wednesday would allow local governments to turn down requests for records without citing a legal reason. It would no longer require government officials to respond to to records requests within 10 days or force them to help the public by describing what records exist.
Gov. Jerry Brown has said he favored some changes aimed at reducing costs, but details did not emerge until a rider bill to the budget was introduced. Ewert ripped the process, saying "not one policy committee read this thing."
The bill was authored by the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. None of the Bay Area committee members -- chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and members Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley -- responded to emails and calls seeking comment late Friday afternoon.
Brown's spokesman on the budget, H.D. Palmer, said late Friday the budget conference committee had adopted a