California lawmaker halts controversial transparency bill amidst public outcry

California lawmaker halts controversial transparency bill amidst public outcry

AB 700 set to not move forward in the 2019 legislative session

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Edited by JPat Brown

After stern opposition from transparency groups, Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) has decided to halt AB 700 for this year’s legislative session in California. The bill would have exempted information relating to a researcher or their research at a state university or community college.

According to Friedman, the goal for AB 700 was to “preserve transparency while guarding against harassment from corporations and profiteers.” Her fear of records law abuse was what prompted the creation of the bill in the first place.

“I find the push by some industries, whether they are the NRA intent on discrediting research on lead poisoning in wildlife, tobacco companies seeking to stifle public health research, or chemical manufacturers racing to register patents based on public research, troubling,” said Friedman on Facebook.

However, transparency advocates were not on board with the new bill, and celebrated the legislations halt. Last month, a coalition of consumer and environmental groups wrote an open letter to Friedman stating their opposition on the matter. Those opposed, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and U.S. Right to Know, said the bill would allow disclosure on a “case-by-case basis,” allowing for broad exemptions over researcher records. They also claim the bill weakens the state’s Public Records Act.

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The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also claimed a victory after news of AB 700’s halt, having expressed concern over its potential impact on access to records on animal research.

Friedman notes that although the bill is halted, she will continue to meet with those who have general concerns about it or the issue in general. However, there is no word regarding the bill’s return for next year’s legislative session.

“If we’re going to move AB 700 forward, it’s important to me that we get it right,” added Friedman.

The now-shelved bill is embedded below.

Image by David Monniaux via Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0