The bill comes on the heels of two state Supreme Court decisions rulings last year finding that salaries and other basic information about police officers are indeed public records.
A.B. 1855, authored by Assemblyman Anthony J. Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, would declare that the salaries of police officers as well as their badge numbers and individual identities are private and cannot be publicly disclosed. The bill's sponsor is the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a group that lobbies for officers.
The State Supreme Court last year ruled in favor of the Contra Costa Times that the salaries of police officers, as well as all other government employees, are a public record. The court also ruled in favor of the Los Angeles Times that the names and basic employment information such as an officer's name are public record.
Portantino's bill, which originally dealt with police interrogation tactics, was amended Monday to ban public disclosure of that information addressed in the court decisions. The bill would also ban the mass release of salary data "including posting or publishing on the Internet."
Porantino did not return a message left with his spokesman Monday. The research association's president, Don Cottingham, also didn't return a phone call.
Contra Costa Times Executive Editor Kevin Keane said lawmakers should let the Supreme Court ruling on salaries stand.
"No legislative end-around is going to change the fact that the citizens of the state of California have a right to information found to be within the public domain," Keane said. "In the case of police officers' salaries, the court couldn't have been clearer. The Legislature should follow the court's lead and back off."
The employment files of police officers are banned from public disclosure --_ unlike records of other government workers in California. Lawyers representing the Oakland Police Officers Association argued before the court last year that salary information should be part of that ban.
But in a sweeping decision, the court ruled that the salaries were public record and can be disclosed on demand, along with those of all other government workers.
"Openness in government is essential to the functioning of a democracy," Chief Justice Ronald George wrote in a 30-page opinion, upholding a pair of lower court decisions. George wrote that "the strong public interest in knowing how the government spends its money" trumped arguments against disclosure.
The California Newspaper Publisher's Association began a lobbying effort against Portantino's bill Monday.
"Portantino's bill would stop the public from monitoring excessive pay, overtime abuse, nepotism, gender and race discrimination, and the migration of potentially abusive peace officers from one agency to the next," Tom Newton, the associations' general counsel, said in a statement.
"The bill would make public safety employees wholly unaccountable to the public they serve," he said.
Reach Thomas Peele at Tpeele@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-208-6458.