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California Governor Jerry Brown (C) waves to the crowd before delivering the State of the State address as Speaker of the Assembly John Perez (L) and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (R) look on at the California State Capitol on January 31, 2011 in Sacramento, California.
The California Legislature's Democratic leaders are pledging to address a budget bill that threatens public access to information held by local governments, but to do so in different ways.
The attempts to backtrack on the bill occurred late in the day Wednesday and in chaotic fashion as the Legislature was facing intense public criticism over the measure.
The leaders of the Assembly and Senate were at odds about what to do, leading to confusion and leaving the bill's fate uncertain.
Assembly Speaker John Perez said his house would meet Thursday and pass another bill that will maintain a requirement for cities and counties to comply with the California Public Records Act.
But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg followed that announcement by saying he planned a different solution. He wants to pass the Assembly's bill only if there is evidence in the future that a city or county is not complying.
Instead, Steinberg said the Senate will take up a constitutional amendment intended to "clarify that this controversy was never about weakening the Public Records Act. It instead is about whether state tax payers pay the bill for what city and county officials should be doing on their own.”
Lawmakers were reacting after a wave of media editorials called on Gov. Jerry Brown to veto the bill, which the Legislature passed last week as part of the budget package.
Brown issued a statement saying: “We all agree that Californians have a right to know and should continue to have prompt access to public records and I support enshrining these protections in California's constitution.”
The governor did not indicate whether he would veto the part of the budget bill that includes changes to the Public Records Act, which he supported.