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Under pressure from a state assemblyman and newspaper publishers to make more legislative spending records public, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said this afternoon that he is forming a task force on the matter.

The announcement followed Assemblyman Anthony Portantino's proposal to strip Perez of the power to set Assembly members' budgets and to assign their offices.

Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, accused Pérez of reducing his office budget as punishment for opposing the state budget's passage, and he proposed requiring the Assembly to make information about spending and contracts public.

Publishers of The Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times filed suit this month after the Assembly declined to release records of lawmakers' current office budgets and spending.

In the text of remarks provided by his office, Pérez, D-Los Angeles, called open government a matter of "paramount importance" and said the "time has come" to update existing policies. He said members of both parties have voiced concern about making Assembly spending records more accessible.

Pérez said a task force chaired by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will have a proposal ready by early next year.

"How taxpayer dollars are expended is public information, and it is our job to ensure that the public has access to it," Pérez said.

Portantino said his own proposal requires records to be made available immediately - not a year from now.

"Assembly leadership has refused to release current budget details and has not conducted a Performance Audit as required by law," Portantino said in a written statement.


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