By Andrew Sheeler, SACRAMENTO BEE
A proposed ballot initiative would force California lawmakers to disclose meetings with lobbyists and make investigations into alleged misconduct subject to public scrutiny.
The measure is intended to strengthen the California Public Records Act by bringing more transparency to lawmakers’ activities. It would establish strict deadlines for responding to information requests, cap charges for producing records to no more than 10 cents per page and set a five-year minimum retention for all public records before they can be destroyed.
“Legislators are often hosted in exotic places by special interest groups and collect money from special interest donors behind closed doors at exclusive events, which often coincide with official work,” says the introduction to the proposed Government Transparency Act.
“The public is entitled to a full accounting of Legislators’ fundraising events and special interest junkets, as well as investigations into Legislators’ misconduct.”
The initiative, proposed by Consumer Watchdog, was filed Wednesday with the California Attorney General’s Office. It will receive a title and summary before being circulated for signatures with the intent of placing it on the November 2024 ballot.
“The California Public Records Act and the Legislative Open Records Act reflect the principle enshrined in our state constitution that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental right to every person in the state,” said Jerry Flanagan, litigation director for Consumer Watchdog, in a statement.
Supporters say the initiative would enjoy broad public support. They point to a poll, conducted by FM3 Research, showing that 71% of California voters would either probably or definitely vote for the measure.
“It is extremely rare in our experience, particularly in the recent polarized environment, to see such broad support as this for a measure across partisan and ideological lines,” said FM3 Research’s Paul Maslin in a statement. News of the proposed initiative was first reported by Politico.