In a closely watched test of California's newest open government law, Proposition 59, legal advisers to Governor Schwarzegger have confirmed he will release many of the documents surrounding private meetings he has conducted while in office.
You may remember that soon after voters approved Prop 59 on November 2nd, the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) filed what's known as a Public Records Act request for access to Schwarzenegger's appointments calendar. In essence, they are attempting to test just how far Prop 59 goes in allowing more access to government documents.
In 1991, the California Supreme Court ruled that former Governor George Deukmejian's calendar was exempt from public records laws, because it was part of the "deliberative process."
But last week, Schwarzenegger told reporters he would release the records. And on Wednesday, the governor's legal affairs secretary sent a letter to the CFAC reiterating that position.
However, Legal Affairs Secretary Peter Siggins said the process would take another 35 days. He also said that certain records-- including those that pertained to the governor's security detail and to people who were interviewed for jobs with the governor-- would not be released.
Reporters will no doubt want to see exactly who Schwarzenegger met with in his first year, to try and piece together why certain policy decisions were made. And the executive director of the CFAC, Peter Scheer, says he intends to provide reporters with copies of the documents as soon as they become available.
All of that being said, Wednesday's formal response left an interesting question unanswered: do they plan to take another 35 calendar days to release the documents, or 35 business days?
The former would make the records available on December 21st... which, with the holidays in full swing, conspiracy theorists would say is the perfect time to keep the public from noticing news reports about Schwarzenegger's activities.
35 business days, on the other hand, would mean documents being made public on January 5th... right before Schwarznegger's second State of the State address.