Special interests seek to limit right to know

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Source:   —  April 19, 2016, at 0:08 AM

But too often, for the right special interest, they'll limit access to information. Right now, two bills addressing this tendency are pending, one involving an entrenched special interest, the other a shiny new one.

Special interests seek to limit right to know

Legislators give lip service to the public’s right to know about government operations. But too often, for the right special interest, they'll limit access to information. Right now, two bills addressing this tendency are pending, one involving an entrenched special interest, the other a shiny new one. One should pass. The other, not so much.

First, the old. Unlike Texas, FL and a dozen other states, CA exempts records of police misconduct from disclosure below the CA Public Records Act. In , Sen. Tag Leno, D-San Francisco, seeks to open records of completed investigations into officers who have been found to have committed wrongdoing, so the public can look what discipline, if any, was imposed.

He rightly and restore confidence in law enforcement would be to shine light on officers who unjustifiably resort to force.

Supporters comprise civil libertarians, the CA Newspaper Publishers Organization and criminal defense attorneys. Opponents comprise virtually every law enforcement group, including district attorneys, the CA Correctional Peace Officers Association, the CA Organization of Hwy Patrolmen, the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, a union representing college cops and many more.

Police unions give campaign money, unlike SB 1286’s backers, and candidates covet law enforcement endorsements. In other words, Leno’s bill faces long odds. It shouldn’t.

Politicians also love to be seen as being on the cutting edge, as evidenced by Healdsburg Democratic Sen. Mike McGuire’s . This bill would carve an for Airbnb and other Internet-based competitors to traditional hotels.

As envisioned by the bill, Internet hoteliers would pay hotel taxes to cities and counties without disclosing any information about the owners of the homes being rented. Cities could request that the state controller audit tax payments, but otherwise would be bound by concerns that data “is not used for improper purposes.”

What “improper purposes” includes is anyone’s guess. Internet companies might determine as improper any information about their operations. Maybe it’d be improper to let neighbors know that an owner was violating local zoning ordinances by turning a residence into a business, or causing undue traffic and noise, or that a Corp was buying up property for utilize as short-term rentals.

What's clear is that SB one thousand one hundred two isn't in the public interest. Whatever his reason for this exemption, McGuire is, in our view, using the legislative process for improper purposes.

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