The Paradox of Disclosure Regulation in the California Legislature

The California Legislative Open Records Act was formulated in 1975. It puts forth the general guidelines for public assessment of documents received or drafted by the state legislature. However, if you read the “About the act” on the official website of the Assembly, you will notice that the use of the words “defines” and “limits” in its description offer a fair idea that the standards for disclosure are set quite high.

In fact, if you talk about the disclosure standards to the journalists and citizen groups of the state, they will probably share a joke about the name. These groups of people claim that ‘open’ is hardly a word to associate with the law. Lawmakers very often reject access to a calendar of their activities and/or emails of the people they have met. And as per the law, it is the legislators who can take a decision regarding disclosure.

Less disclosure is safer: Democrats

According to Nikki Moore, attorney and lobbyist, California News Publishers Assn, it is like approaching the caretakers of these valuable documents and trying to get them released from their grip.

At the time it was formulated, the records law was a topic of intense discussion in the California State Capitol. There was a Republican who had been a leading figure in the drafting of an indiscreet written proposal in 1975. He said that the Democrats had failed to learn anything from Watergate and were deaf to the desperate cry of the masses for an open government. In response to the Republican’s statement, the Democrats said that excessive transparency could lead to chaos. Hence, the rather secretive version of the act was ultimately passed as law.

Staffer revisits sexual harassment complaint against assemblyman

The Sacramento bureau at The Times recently requested the Senate as well as the Assembly to provide information regarding the numerous abuse accusations against the legislature and its staff. These requests were triggered by the letter written by 147 women throwing light on the issue of systemic sexual abuse within the Capitol. A staffer came to the front with a complaint she had lodged in 2009 against Raul Bocanegra, who was once a staffer.

She showed an Assembly Rules Committee letter which detailed the closure of the investigation. This is the type of document that is typically hidden from the public eye. There is still no news about whether any other documents related to the case were released or not.

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