Politics, government and public life for Southern California

State bill could change transparency in California's open meetings law

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What difference could two words make to the openness and transparency of California's public meetings law? It turns out ... a lot. 

The state's open meetings law allows government bodies to meet in closed session, outside of the public's eye, if lawmakers are discussing the "price and terms of payment for the purchase, sale, exchange, or lease" of property. 

The Assembly's Local Government Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would omit the words "of payment." And that, according to some groups, could allow politicians to discuss any and all terms of a real estate deal without the involvement of the public. 

The bill from Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) follows a court decision that found the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission violated the state's open meetings law when it met in closed session to to discuss a lease agreement with USC. The Los Angeles Times sued over the issue and was ultimately awarded $415,000 in legal fees — one of the largest awards ever granted under the Brown Act. 

"If AB 2492 becomes law, it would legitimize the behavior and secret deal making typified by the Coliseum Commission in the Coliseum-USC transaction," according to a release from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. 

Though the bill was approved by committee 5-1, Jones-Sawyer said he would work to address the transparency concerns. 

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