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SACRAMENTO � A bill that would force judges to redact certain divorce filings sailed through a committee hearing Wednesday even though its author made controversial changes that critics say were politically motivated and likely unconstitutional. The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 1015, which would now require a court to redact from a public file the Social Security number, address, bank account number, annual income and net worth of any requesting party in a divorce case. Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, added the must-redact language to his bill two weeks after a skeptical Assembly Judiciary Committee deleted similar provisions. Committee Chairman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, said then that he would not support a bill that didn’t give judges some discretion over shielding financial information. “But the purpose of the bill was to ensure that a party could keep his personal information private,” Murray said Wednesday. “Bills change between committees all the time.” The latest version of SB 1015 also creates a five-part balancing test judges would use to decide if additional financial records should be redacted � a nod, Murray said, to opponents who wanted more weight given to the public’s right to access court files. But opponents said the test is worthless if the must-redact language stays. “This bill has the same fatal flaw: it takes away judicial discretion,” said Thomas Newton, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. Murray also added a requirement that the Judicial Council study “gender fairness” in family courts after women’s groups complained the bill could hurt wives trying to uncover their estranged husbands’ assets. Courts could also charge new fees to cover the costs of record-sealing. But the changes did not appease either group, which remain opposed to the bill. “It makes it appear that the court has something to hide in these very sensitive cases,” said Tracy Kenny, a lobbyist for the Judicial Council. “We don’t think that’s good policy for the state.” Critics accuse lawmakers of pushing SB 1015 for Ron Burkle, the billionaire supermarket magnate and Democratic Party patron who is embroiled in a messy divorce. In 2004, the Legislature hurriedly adopted a bill similar to SB 1015 that Burkle cited in trying to seal his pleadings. But the Second District Court of Appeal in February struck down the law as unconstitutional. Murray on Wednesday said, as he has for weeks, that he has not spoken to Burkle or his associates about SB 1015, which he said is more narrowly crafted to pass judicial muster. The secretary of state has no records of Burkle donating money to Murray’s campaigns. The senator said his motivation is simply protecting Californians’ privacy from would-be identity thieves and publishers trying to boost circulation by reporting “salacious personal and private details.” But SB 1015 does have subtle ties to Burkle. At least two lobbyists from the Sacramento firm Platinum Advisors have appeared at committee hearings on the bill. Although they did not testify, they could be seen talking privately with legislative staff during the bill’s discussion. Platinum Advisors’ founder is Darius Anderson, a Democratic fundraiser who was chief of staff for Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies between 1993 and 1998. Burkle and Anderson are also partners in Treasure Island Community Development LLC, the firm chosen by the city of San Francisco to redevelop the former Navy base. Platinum Advisors does not list Burkle or Yucaipa Companies as a client through Feb. 15, the most recent filing available at the secretary of state’s office. Anderson did not immediately return telephone or e-mail messages on Wednesday. Murray acknowledged that “many” people have been involved in drafting SB 1015, including Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu�ez. But the speaker’s input “has not affected members questioning” the bill, Murray said. Any questioning has not slowed SB 1015, however, which has been fast-tracked by legislative leaders and could see a full vote in the Assembly this week.

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