Monday, July 1, 2013


SB 71: a stealth move that worked. Governor Brown shrugs off public input ... again!

When AB 76 was hot and heavy, rendering or denying public access to public documents and records,  this column and others exposed the hypocrisy. When I met with one of our State Senators last week, I was advised that the legislature heard the hue and cry and that AB 76 was pulled from the Governor's desk. The expectation was that the bill would return, keeping the language on page 61 that cut benefits from injured workers despite prior legislation awarding them those benefits, but that the language threatening citizens' ability to use the California Public Records Act (CPRA) would be amended out of the bill.

Wrong. Instead, Governor Brown signed SB 71, another "trailer bill,"  which will also allow local governments to restrict access to these records and the information therein. One method will be to let the local agency decide in what format to release electronic data if they release it at all. Local governments will be allowed to deny written requests for public records -- they will not be required to state the reason for denial. Appeals wlll be hard to formulate if no reasons are given for denial.  Transparency in California's open-government law will be sliced and diced.

Has the Governor snubbed the public?

He kept in the language that snubs injured workers and makes SB 863 from last year even more confiscatory than it already is. SB 71 acknowledges that "existing law appropriates $120,000,000 per year" to pay for a return-to-work program but then states "the program applies only to injuries that occur on or after January 1, 2013." One of the few benefits that one could have argued for with reference to last year's SB 863 was that it appropriated $120,000,000 for a return-to-work program. This benefit, presumably, is one reason why Angie Wei, California Federation of Labor, worked so hard to get the bill passed. That benefit has now evaporated for all injuries prior to 1/01/2013.

Did the California Labor Federation,  workers  injured  before 1/01/2013, and all of their supporters get out-maneuvered by Governor Brown? It turns out that AB 76 and SB 71 were mirror bills and that the technical  reason AB 76 got vetoed was because SB 71 was already in the  process of being signed. Either bill was sufficient to take away the benefits from injured workers that had been bestowed on them by SB 863 from 2012. Two weeks later (as of 7/17/13) we  still haven't heard an outcry from the original supporters of SB 863. It does not  appear that this loss of benefits concerns  the labor unions.

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