As Sunlight has covered before, California is one of the many states that is in dire need of transparency. A recently released report [pdf link] from the Pacific Research Institute offered up some policy recommendations after examining the situation. The free market think tank published their report during Sunshine Week and focused primarily on reforming open-records and open-meetings laws. The author of the report noted,
Recent incidents like the City of Bell pay scandal show that California’s open-records and open-meetings laws are in need of reform. Public pay is the public’s business, along with the debates, decisions, and actions of government and the outcomes of government policies.
In addition to looking at the widely publicized scandal in the city of Bell, the study compares open-government laws with other states using a number of scholarly rankings. According to the BGA-Alper Integrity Index of 2008, California ranks 45th for its open-meetings laws and 17th for its open-records laws. According to a database from the 2010 Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project (CAP), California ranked no better than a 5 (somewhat open) in any of the nine categories that pertain to open meetings and for open records, the state scored a 3 (somewhat closed) in 40 categories and a 2 (mostly closed) in 13 categories.
The Sunlight Foundation is enthusiastic to see more organizations spur discussions of open government and encourage brainstorming of solutions. Among the many policy recommendations, we were particularly excited to see the online posting of public meetings and minutes, as well as making records available online with all fees stated upfront.