Assembly budget records now open
December 2, 2011
Budget records of state Assembly members will be released for public scrutiny, a Sacramento judge decided Thursday. Shortly after the tentative decision was posted, Assembly officials said they will not immediately contest it. [Sacramento Bee]
The Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times sued the Assembly in August, challenging its proclaimed right to keep secret records of expenditures of individual members.
Judge Timothy M. Frawley said in his 12-page decision that “The court concludes that the records were improperly withheld under the Open Records Act. The court is persuaded that the strong public interest in disclosure outweighs any reason for keeping the records secret.”
The Assembly divides $146.7 million annually among its members.
The lower house had balked at making those records available publicly, claiming the documents were “preliminary drafts” and thus none of the public’s business.
“The Legislature has no authority to interpret the laws and determine rights; that is the function of the judiciary,” Frawley said.
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada-Flintridge) started the battle when he alleged that his office budget had been cut to punish him as the lone Democrat to vote against this year’s state budget. He demanded member-by-member budget records, and Assembly officials demurred.
Portantino hailed the judge’s decision today as “a tremendous victory for democracy.”