09/12/2011 by Cheryl Getuiza & Nate Levine

Calls intensify for lawmakers to open their calendars

It’s become a hot button issue the last few months—Will California lawmakers buckle down and reveal their daily calendars?

It’s something many civic organizations – including the nonprofit, nonpartisan California Forward— are keeping a close eye on.

California Forward believes restructuring government will increase our awareness that our elected leaders are doing what they need to do and doing it efficiently—leading to better results and a more stable, secure atmosphere.

The Bay Area News Group, which includes The San Jose Mercury News, and the Associated Press have asked every state lawmaker to release his or her legislative calendar to the public --in an effort to reveal who influences legislation.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the public has the right to know if our elected leaders are meeting with interests within the district or big donors and corporations.

The newspaper says its requests were rejected by the rules committees in each house in May because of “privacy, security and legislative privilege.”

A second round of requests to all Assembly members was denied last month. However, some individual legislators have released their calendars of vowed to do so.California Common Sense (CACS)—a Stanford University Transparency organization—demands that state leaders open up their records to the public. CACS’s Nate Levine wrote this commentary:

Another entry on the long list of items the government won't share with its citizens: legislative calendars. This should not even be an issue, because they are public servants, and they work for us—that information should be available to every Californian.

How can we possibly put our faith in a government that refuses to disclose the details of its daily operations?

Often politicians have countered public records requests by claiming their budgets and schedules are private information. But, part of serving the public means opening your data to scrutiny. How else can we keep politicians accountable?

We applaud Portantino, Donnelly, Grove, Beall, Campos and any other California legislators who are willing move beyond political maneuvering and take a step towards transparency.

But what our state needs is a movement catalyzed at the top.

It is time for the leaders in our legislature to step forward and acknowledge the tremendous value of open information.

It is just common sense, something California desperately needs.

Nate Levine is operations manager for CACS.

Categories: Governance Reform, Transparency

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