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Public Hearings Must Be Made Accessible To The Public
Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012
Refusing to allow the televising of an important tax hearing last week adds to the cynicism about transparency in government.
California senate leader Darrell Steinberg has apologized for barring television cameras in a hearing on November ballot measures. The legislator said he acted “out of concern the hearing would provide fodder for political ads.” In an open apology before reporters, Steinberg told them “It wasn’t right and won’t happen again as long as I am here.”
The situation has all the marks of a political action. Steinberg supports Proposition 30, a measure to increase taxes. Individuals opposed to the measure were expected to testify. An opponent of the proposition, Senator Lois Wolk, was shocked to learn the hearings were not going to be televised. As chair of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, she said the decision was made without prior notice or her approval.
“I strongly disagree with the decision, as the hearing was held to fulfill a state-mandated discussion on the initiatives so as to inform the public.” An audio was available over the Internet, but the purpose and rule of the laws are to provide the greatest access and transparency available.
That either side would sidestep that mandate because of a fear that excerpts might be used in campaign commercials is a sad commentary on the state of elective politics.
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