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In a victory for personal privacy over wide-open free speech, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state of California can bar businesses from selling public records of crime victims and arrestees. The government can engage in "selective disclosure" of public information, the justices said. The ruling may pose problems in the future for those who rely on access to public records, from operators of computerized databanks and direct marketers to journalists.
State government is supposed to know, but it doesn't. While an Associated Press survey of public records found that much of the data the state collects at taxpayer expense is difficult for taxpayers to access, some of the data the state is supposed to be collecting goes unrecorded. For instance, under a 1993 law, the state was supposed to begin collecting information on distinguished women and minorities who were available to serve on diversity-minded corporate boards.
A federal appeals court Friday expanded the definition of records that must be preserved by the government to include millions of White House computer messages and other documents from the Ronald Reagan and George Bush presidencies. The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals here represents a landmark ruling involving the maintenance of government records as more and more material is placed into computers.
June 20, 2013 | By Anthony York
SAN FRANCISCO -- In his first public appearance since last week's passage of the state budget, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday focused on issues of climate change and wage equality, but said nothing about the tussle between top Sacramento Democrats over the future of public access to government records. “We have issues that are here today in this legislative session, and then we have issues that transcend the issues of today but are going to affect our lives in a very, very  profound way,” Brown told a group of hundreds of cheering nurses, most clad in red T-shirts, at the National Nurses United meeting.
December 12, 2013 | By Ben Welsh and Robert J. Lopez
In a rapid reversal, the Los Angeles Fire Department announced Thursday it would resume publishing details about the department's response to life-and-death emergencies via social media and again release 911 audio recordings and database records that capture its performance. The action came just hours after the LAFD said it would be rolling back public disclosure . Earlier in the day, fire officials had announced that the department would put its social media accounts on “hiatus” and halt releasing records that show how long it takes rescuers to respond to calls for help.
June 19, 2013 | George Skelton, Capitol Journal
SACRAMENTO - Given half a chance - any rationale at all - governments invariably will try to restrict the citizenry's access to public information. Especially if it might shine the light on official stupidity or misbehavior. That's just human nature. Companies do it too. The difference for governments, of course, is that they're living off of, and are supposed to be working for, the public. The people have a right to know whether officials are performing like dunces, as in building a new span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge with weak bolts, or lining their pockets with taxpayers' money, as they were in the city of Bell.
March 13, 2005 | Robert Tanner, Associated Press Writer
FALL RIVER, Mass. -- Ed Lambert, Al Lima and Mike Miozza never thought of themselves as activists, just as regular guys. Then an energy company announced plans to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in this small community on the Taunton River. The men -- the mayor, a city planner and an engineer -- had nightmare visions of gas igniting into a huge fireball on the river. They asked for government-held reports that studied the threat to the town if the plant or a tanker were attacked.
July 2, 1992 | From Associated Press
A record volume of tax-free municipal bonds was redeemed Wednesday, before their scheduled maturity date, as issuers refinanced older, higher-paying bonds with new, less-expensive securities. Traders said about $8 billion worth of the bonds, which are debt sold by states and cities to finance everything from schools to sewers, were "called."
September 26, 2011 | By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times
More than four out of five Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being run, according to a Gallup survey reporting a resounding thumbs-down for the federal government as it prepares to deal with another round of budget challenges. As the Senate prepares to vote on Monday in yet-another drama threatening to shut down the government over spending issues, Gallup is reporting a record 81% of those surveyed saying they are dissatisfied with how the nation is governed.
May 19, 2013 | By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Three years ago, the Obama administration brought criminal charges under the Espionage Act against Thomas Drake, an Air Force veteran and intelligence expert at the National Security Agency in Maryland. He was not accused of aiding the enemy or of revealing national secrets. He had, however, helped a Baltimore Sun reporter reveal a billion-dollar boondoggle at the NSA - a computerized data-scanning system that never worked as planned. The case against Drake collapsed on the eve of his trial when it was revealed that the information was not classified.
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