Happy Sunshine Week: Gloria Announces Two Bills to Boost Government Transparency

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Assemblymember Gloria Promotes Open Government, Accountability, and Public Transparency with AB’s 1184 and 1555

SACRAMENTO, CA – California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) wants to make sure government is open and accessible to the people it serves. As part of “Sunshine Week,” Assemblymember Gloria announced today Assembly Bills 1184 and 1555 – legislation that would mandate e-mail record retention for all public agencies and affirm the media’s right to access and listen to police scanners.  

Open government is a centerpiece of a sound democracy. Because public agencies conduct the people’s business, the people have a right-to-know and a right to access government information,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “Access to public records and communications is fundamental to upholding public trust and, in some cases, preserving public safety. It’s my hope these bills will shine more light onto the work of public agencies and encourage a more open and transparent government for all.”

AB 1184, which was inspired by investigative reporting by the Voice of San Diego, would require all public agencies to retain and preserve e-mails for at least two years.

In March 2018, Voice of San Diego detailed how some local municipalities delete e-mail records under the two year legal requirement. The agencies in question justified these deletions by saying current California law is ambiguous on e-mail retention. A few months later, Voice of San Diego filed legal action against a local school district over their e-mail destruction policy, which was also under the two year legal requirement. AB 1184 clarifies current law and sets the standard for e-mail record retention by stating public agencies must keep all e-mails for at least two years. 

AB 1555, also authored by Assemblymember Gloria, seeks to affirm the right of news media to access police radio communications – commonly known as police scanners. Specifically, the bill states law enforcement agencies must provide access to encrypted police communications upon the request of any news service, newspaper, radio, or television network.

In December 2018, local media in the Coachella Valley were cut-off from listening to police scanners thanks to a vote by the local authority that operates the police communications system. Typically, local media use police scanner communication to monitor and report to the public breaking news, emergencies, public safety hazards, natural disasters, traffic conditions, and more. AB 1555 explicitly articulates the right of news media to have access to these scanners. This would also apply to joint powers authorities who operate police radio communications.   

AB 1255 will help local news media continue to keep their communities safe. Journalists’ access to scanner information about breaking news situations like road closures, active shooter situations, fires and natural disasters inform the public and helps folks avoid dangerous situations,” said Jim Ewert of the California News Publishers Association. “By keeping residents out of harm’s way, the bill would allow first responders to entirely focus their attention on addressing the situation at hand.”

California’s local news media must respond at an accelerating pace to the challenges and dangers facing their communities every day,” said Joe Barry, President/CEO of the California Broadcasters Association. “In order to report quickly and accurately to viewers, listeners and readers, access to real-time information is essential. AB 1555 will secure our continued partnership with law enforcement to protect the public.”

Both AB 1184 and AB 1555 are pending referral to committees in the Assembly for review. If passed by the Legislature, the bills could be on Governor Newsom’s desk by the Fall.