Bill Would Have Agencies Document Member Votes

     (CN) – A California legislative committee unanimously passed a bill that will require government agencies to publicly disclose their individual votes.
     The Brown Act already prohibits state government agencies from holding secret meetings, but SB 751 amends the government code to require that they publicly report how each member votes.
     Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco and the bill’s sponsor, called it “another one of those where you just scratch your head and can’t believe it’s happening,” referring to the practice of some agencies to not record how their members vote.
     In testimony before the Assembly Local Government Committee, Bryan Starr with the Orange County Business Council said the impetus for the bill sprang from meetings related to SB 375, or the Landmark Land Use and Regional Transportation law.
     Among its many provisions, SB 375 required local governments to prepare “sustainable communities strategies” to show how they would meet greenhouse gas reduction targets that must be incorporated into regional transportation systems. At meetings of metropolitan planning organizations like the Southern California Association of Governments and the Association of Bay Area Governments, members voted to allocate billions of federal transportation dollars to regional transportation plans. Each individual’s vote, however, was not recorded.
     Legislative analysis found minutes from the ABAG’s May 17, 2012, meeting that listed a motion as receiving 27 ayes and 5 nays, but did not specify the votes of individual members.
     “There was no recognition of how individual members were voting on these bodies,” Starr told the committee. “We think this bill corrects that and allows more accountability and transparency for members of the public who have an interest in public policy.”
     “Members of the general public have the right to know how their appointed or elected officials that represent them vote on individual policy measures,” Starr said in an interview. “Unless you’re physically at these meetings, it’s really impossible to know what’s going on. It’s a little confusing to us as to why some of these bodies have been resistant to practicing transparency in this way in the past. No one from these agencies has been able to offer us an explanation as to why they don’t do it.”
     Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, told the committee that his group was surprised that agencies were not already recording how their members voted.
     “It’s just a commonsense thing, and this is a commonsense bill,” Ewert said.
     Committee members passed the measure 9-0 on June 26, and it moves on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee in August.

%d bloggers like this: