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League Testifies in Senate Informational Hearing on Open Data

October 21, 2016
On Friday Oct. 7, the League of California Cities® participated in an informational hearing hosted by Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), chair of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.
Open data experts, local government advocates and local government agencies met to discuss the many ways that open data and increased transparency can be beneficial to the public. Specifically, panelists were asked to share the benefits and challenges associated with SB 272 (Hertzberg, Chapter 795, Statutes of 2015), which requires (by July 1, 2016) local agencies to create and upload an online catalog of each data system that they use.

A major topic of discussion was the number of cities out of compliance with SB 272. While SB 272 has been reasonably simple to comply with, there are still cities that have not yet complied for a variety of reasons.
League staff conveyed to the committee that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for cities. Although several cities across the state have led the way in open data and have taken a leadership role by creating best practices in providing the public access to data sets that are useful and informative, the reality is not all cities have the ability to be so proactive. There are several cities that are still at pre-recession staffing levels. And while the League supports open transparency and encourages cities to modernize their ability to interact with their constituents, there are practical challenges associated with implementation of unfunded state mandates. Simply put, for some cities there simply is not enough staffing or funding to significantly invest in updated software and open data standards while still providing the critical services that are required for city governance.
Currently, 387 out of 480 cities, which have websites, are in compliance with SB 272 (approximately 80 percent). The League is continuing to work with cities that are currently out of compliance to ensure that they comply as soon as possible. Additionally, the League is working with the Municipal Information Systems Association of California to develop a joint email distribution listserv to ensure that important communications regarding compliance with SB 272 and other technology/data related measures are seen by the right people within our cities. We are hopeful that this will aide in getting more cities in compliance with SB 272.
Online transparency and open data continues to be an emerging issue for local governments. The League appreciates the opportunity to work with Sen. Hertzberg and other members of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on ways to increase transparency while balancing the real-life implementation challenges cities face.
If your city has not yet complied with SB 272, see “SB 272 Compliance Deadline Passed with Many Agencies Out of ComplianceCA Cities Advocate, Sept. 23 for more information. 

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