Publishers of The Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times jointly filed suit Friday to challenge the Assembly's refusal to release records of current office budgets and spending by its lawmakers.
The legal dispute stems from allegations by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, that his budget was slashed as punishment for his casting the lone Democratic vote against this year's controversial budget.
Portantino, The Bee, and the Times, among others, submitted Legislative Open Records Act requests recently seeking Assembly records that could shed light on Portantino's allegations.
The Assembly Rules Committee released information about lawmaker expenditures from years past, but it balked at producing documents related to this year's office budgets or any changes in them.
The Rules Committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner but ultimately controlled by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, said that such documents are exempt under provisions of the Legislative Open Records Act covering "preliminary drafts, notes or legislative memoranda" and correspondence to lawmakers' offices.
Jon Waldie, Assembly administrator, said that projections of members' current budgets and spending can change throughout the year, can contain private information - such as the name of an employee on maternity leave - and are used in private communications to legislators.
The media lawsuit argues that the requested records are not exempt under the Legislative Open Records Act. The Assembly's refusal to release them violates provisions in the state Constitution that give residents the right to access information about government conduct, the suit said.
"The requested records concern the conduct of the people's business and the use of public resources to conduct that business," he suit said.
The suit, filed by McClatchy Newspapers and Los Angeles Times Communications, seeks a court order requiring disclosure of 2010 and 2011 budget and spending records, as well as reimbursement for attorney fees and any other relief the court deems proper.
Read the lawsuit below.