California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed legislation sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) that it says would close a loophole opened up by a state appellate court decision that allows members of public bodies to make an end-run around the state's open meeting law.
In its latest legislative bulletin to members, CNPA reported that Schwarzenegger, who made government transparency a prominent campaign issue, vetoed the bill, SB 964, that would have restored the open meeting law's prohibition against public body members using a series of private communications to determine what action to take on a public issue.
That prohibition in the law known as the Ralph M. Brown Act was "gutted" by a 2006 appellate court decision, CNPA told members.
The bill passed in the Assembly 70-2, but was opposed by many state colleges, school administrators, and the California School Districts Association, CNPA said.
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said "it is of the utmost importance to ensure openness and transparency of local government decision making." But he said the bill's solution to the "perceived defect in the Brown Act" revealed by the appellate court's decision was the wrong solution.
"In its attempt to solve the issue, this bill imposes an impractical standard for compliance on local officials and could potentially prohibit communication among officials and agency staff outside of a public meeting," he wrote. "I urge the Legislature to consider legislation next year that more judiciously addresses the problem of serial meetings that result in public policy decisions."