Santa Barbara, Calif. -

A move to save money changes the way the California Public Records Act works.

The passage of Senate Bill  71 makes delivering electronic data optional for local agencies.  The bill encourages local governments to announce orally at the next meeting if they won't comply and annually every year thereafter.

The bill would require a state-mandated local program.

Noozhawk.com founder William Macfadyen said journalists and concerned citizens have a reason to be upset.  Agencies could use guidelines known as "best practices" as an excuse not to release information.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson said the budget bill doesn't limit access to public records, it shifts the fiscal responsibility onto local governments.

She said the Legislative Analyst's Office had estimated that the cost to the state for providing these services was in the tens of millions of dollars. 

Jackons called the budget measure a middle ground compromise.

But she said communities and media should step up and speak out about the importance of public access and open government to their local governments.