Gov. Jerry Brown stays mum on fracas over public records law

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SAN FRANCISCO -- In his first public appearance since last week’s passage of the state budget, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday focused on issues of climate change and wage equality, but said nothing about the tussle between top Sacramento Democrats over the future of public access to government records.

“We have issues that are here today in this legislative session, and then we have issues that transcend the issues of today but are going to affect our lives in a very, very profound way,” Brown told a group of hundreds of cheering nurses, most clad in red T-shirts, at the National Nurses United meeting. “And sometimes we can get so caught up in the now that we forget about the tsunami that’s coming at us.”

Brown’s speech was a thank you of sorts to a group that has been a big Brown campaign booster. The California Nurses Assn. donated $1 million to Brown’s efforts to pass Proposition 30 last fall.


But the governor had no interest in being bogged down in the controversy over access to public records currently roiling Sacramento. Brown hurried from the stage after his 20-minute speech, disappearing behind a large velvet curtain and avoiding reporters’ questions.

Brown’s spokesman, Evan Westrup, said the governor’s office had “nothing more at this time” to say about the tussle among top Democrats over the future of the public records law, which could be weakened if a proposal pushed by Brown and tucked into the state budget is signed next week, as expected.

Minutes before Brown spoke, Assembly Democrats passed a revised budget trailer bill that eliminated a provision that could allow local governments to opt out of portions of the law -- including current requirements that agencies respond to records requests within 10 days and to give a legal reason for refusing a request for documents from a member of the public.

The move, originally proposed by Brown in January, was billed as a cost-saving measure. According to estimates from the nonpartisan legislative analyst, it could save the state “tens of millions” of dollars it would have to otherwise spend to reimburse to local governments for complying with the law.

In a short statement on Wednesday, Brown indicated that he would support a constitutional amendment, to be approved by voters, next fall. But sources in his office say the governor intends to go ahead with the proposed changes to the law in the meantime.



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