California Should Adopt Guidelines for Government Transparency During an Emergency

Statement by Jonathan Mehta Stein, Executive Director of California Common Cause
“As COVID-19 reshapes how we live and work, alters education for millions of children and disrupts our economy, it has become even more clear that we need accountable state and local governments that make transparent decisions.”

“Today we are releasing a statement of principles that should guide governments using remote proceedings in a crisis, including the current coronavirus pandemic as well as wild fires, earthquakes, or any other emergencies that may affect the Golden State.”

“California Common Cause is calling on state and local leaders to adopt clear guidelines for remote proceedings — so they can move forward with governing during a crisis while also guaranteeing public oversight and participation.” 

“California must strike a balance between giving governments the flexibility to make critical decisions during a crisis and the public’s right to participate in open and accountable government proceedings.”

Government use of remote proceedings should be:

  • Only when necessary — during an emergency when in-person participation would be dangerous or impossible, so that lawmakers can’t abuse remote voting for political advantage or personal convenience.
  • Highly secure and reliable — held at locations with audio/visual capacity and with sufficient internet strength for reliable real-time streaming, and after implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity plan to prevent infiltration, disruption, or technical failures.
  • Inclusive of the public — with internet and telephone access for all members of the public, full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and robust opportunities for public comment.
  • Limited in subject matter — only for actions that are legally necessary or to address an emergency situation, with ample opportunities to revisit once the government is able to reconvene in person.

California Common Cause urges government officials to develop a policy for remote proceedings in accordance with these principles. They should develop these plans in an open, consultative manner that builds public trust and confidence in the event they need to be deployed.

Read the full statement of principles online.
https://www.commoncause.org/california/democracy-wire/government-transparency-in-an-emergency/

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