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League of California Cities Opposes State Open Data Legislation

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, June 26 2012

The League of California Cities said in a statement that it opposes proposed open data legislation in that state because it would "impose new duties and costs on public agencies at a time when they can ill afford them, under the guise of promoting greater government transparency."

In addition to requiring that state and local agencies make their records available for public inspection, the bill, SB 1002, would "authorize an agency, upon request, to provide a copy of an electronic record in a format in which the text in the electronic record is searchable by commonly used software." The bill is backed by California Newspaper Publishers Association, SF Tech Dems, the California Faculty Association, California Teachers Association, Common Cause and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

"SB 1002 would create a new, additional disclosure duty for public agencies to produce 'electronic data' and 'electronic records,' terms that are not defined either in existing law or the bill," the League says.

By outlining specifications for the electronic records public agencies would have to produce, the League says, the bill would impede "the ability of electronic communications technology, and agencies' use of new technology, to continue to evolve, along with the public's right of access to electronic government information."

The League of Cities says it has proposed amendments to the legislation to address its concerns.

"Adding format-specific information requirements to the PRA would create the need for statutory amendments any time information technology evolves in a way that can enhance government information management and that is not captured under the current definition," the League of Cities says. "The PRA has withstood the test of time and can continue to do so. The one-size-fits-all data standard SB 1002 would impose would actually be a major step backward for government use of new information technology and public access."

In a blog post, Adriel Hampton, a founding employee of NationBuilder and advisory board member of LegiNation, a site hosted by NationBuilder that tracks state legislation, criticizes the League of Cities' stance. He called its statement "a muddled screed nearly as long as the simple open data bill, [that] makes false assertions about its language and intent, and attacks the aims of open data advocates."