Secret Service Déjà Vu? CA Lawmakers Kill Bill to Prevent State Agencies from Deleting Messages Whenever They Want

By Cres Vellucci Jr.
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO, CA – The CA Legislature late last week here quietly killed a bill that could prevent the same kind of redactions that have been in the news regarding missing text messages from the Secret Service and other government agencies surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, protests.

The measure that would have prevented state agencies from deleting text messages and emails whenever they want to do so—and preserve those records for a minimum of two years, cities and counties in CA must do that now.

But not state agencies.

Assembly Bill 2370 was held in Senate Appropriations Committee, leading Carmen Balber, Consumer Watchdog’s executive director, to note in a statement, “AB 2370 would have ensured Californians have access to information about the workings of their government…Sen. (Anthony) Portantino (the committee chair) used the most un-democratic tactic to do so, shelving the bill without explanation or a vote.”

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-Greenbrae) and passed out of the Assembly unanimously in May. Trade and advocacy groups including the First Amendment Coalition and Californians Aware, Consumer Watchdog, the California News Publishers supported the proposal.

In an interview, Levine noted, “The two-year retention standard is good enough for cities and counties, so you’ve got to scratch your head and wonder why the state isn’t willing to embrace that standard.”

The Sacramento Bee reported, “State agencies set their own retention schedules, which range from a few months to decades depending on agency and record type.”

The Bee said Levine introduced the legislation after campaigning against Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara this year—Lara, after promising not to accept contributions from the insurance industry, did so, from industry executives.

But when Consumer Watchdog asked for records from Lara’s donor meetings under the CA Public Records Act in 2020, the Insurance Dept. created a policy, said the Bee, requiring most emails within 180 days. Later the agency withdrew the policy, with a spokesperson claiming it was not “workable.”

Levine told the Bee “similar proposals had been vetoed in the past,” and blamed a “culture of deletion” in state agencies.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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