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California Budget Public Re (1).jpgThe Senate voted to reverse changes to the California Public Records Act on Monday, leaving the final decision on the records law to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Democratic governor will have the opportunity to choose between two nearly identical budget bills, Assembly Bill 76 and Senate Bill 71. Brown's spokesman has suggested the governor will support the revised bill.

Open government advocates and media groups spoke out against the original bill,AB 76, which would have made full compliance with the public records law optional for local agencies.

The Legislature then simply revised SB 71 to remove the changes the original bill made to the public records law. Senators passed the new bill on a party-line, 28-11 vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, supported the bill as a "stop-gap" measure until the constitutional amendment he and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg proposed on Friday goes on the ballot in June 2014.

Leno said the bill would calm anxieties that local agencies would stop complying with portions of the records law before the constitutional amendment could be voted on.

"We don't need a mandate for those cities and counties and public agencies that will recognize this as best practices. We need the mandate for those few who may not," Leno said.

Though most of his colleagues agreed with Leno, several senators raised concerns about other issues with the bill.

Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, objected to the suspension of other sections relieving local agencies from complying with domestic violence protocol. Several other senators spoke out against the parts of the bill that limit restitution for crime victims.

Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, said that while he supports the idea of transparent government, he would not vote for something that only made a "bad bill less bad."

"It's the press's access to open government that keeps the government open and free," Anderson said. "And while I'd like to change it, I think the bill is moving in the right direction."

The Senate expects to take up the constitutional amendment that would incorporate the public records law into the state constitution on Thursday.

PHOTO: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, talking to reporters at the Capitol, Wednesday June 19, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.


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