Currently, two state laws define the rules local governments must follow to provide public access to local government information and meetings – the The California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act -- and the state Constitution requires the state to reimburse local governments for costs incurred in complying with the Public Records Act.
Proposition 42 would remove the reimbursement mandate from the state Constitution, and would add requirements to the Constitution that local governments follow the Records Act and the Brown Act. Including this requirement in the Constitution would eliminate the possibility that legislators could alter or eliminate the Public Records Act in budget negotiations (as happened in 2013).
The California Public Records Act is a collection of laws requiring state and local government bodies to make their records available to the public. The act requires that public records be available to public inspection during the office hours of the holding agencies. The act also requires agencies to create written guidelines for the public on how to access these documents and these guidelines are required to be posted at their office.
The Ralph M. Brown Act requires local governmental bodies to provide posted notice of the time and place for regular meetings. It also requires that all meetings of the governmental body be open to the public. Unless a closed session has been especially authorized, members of the public are permitted to attend any meeting of the local legislative body.
Under the current requirements of the Records Act, the state must pay local governments for their costs when new responsibilities are added. It is estimated that the state owes local governments for Public Record Act costs in the tens of millions of dollars. In 2012, California voters eliminated the state's responsibility for Brown Act costs.
Proposition 42 would amend the California Constitution by removing the state's responsibility to pay local governments for implementation costs of the Public Records Act and the Brown Act. Any future amendments would also be covered by this amendment.
Aside from the state saving millions of dollars annually, the measure makes it easier for the state to make changes to the Public Records Act because there would be no cost to them to implement new changes. Local governments could incur significant new costs.
The measure originated as Senate Constitutional Amendment 3 in the California Legislature. It was sponsored by State Senator Mark Leno (D-11) as Senate Constitutional Amendment 3.
Image provided by Caltech at Wikimedia Commons.