Proposition 42: Public Records. Open Meetings. State Reimbursement to Local Agencies

The Question

Should the state Constitution be amended to require local governments to comply with state public-access laws, and to eliminate the requirement that the state reimburse local governments for the costs of such compliance?

The Situation

State public-access laws include the Ralph M. Brown Act, which requires governmental bodies to provide public notice of agenda items and to hold open meetings, and the Public Records Act, which requires governmental bodies to provide copies of government documents to the public upon request. Local governments must comply with these laws, although that requirement is not spelled out in the state Constitution.

Under the Constitution, the state is required to reimburse local governments for the costs of complying with these laws and any other laws mandated by the Legislature.  

However, the state no longer has to reimburse local governments for their costs of carrying out the Brown Act, due to the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012.  A section of Proposition 30 eliminated that requirement from the Constitution. The state still is required to reimburse local governments for the costs of carrying out the Public Records Act.  The state owes local governments a large sum of money for carrying out the Public Records Act, estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars annually.  Because of this, the Legislature considered making the requirements of the Public Records Act optional for local governments, but instead voted to put Proposition 42 on the ballot.

The Proposal

Proposition 42 would (i) amend the Constitution to specifically require that local governmental bodies must comply with the Brown Act and the Public Records Act, and (ii) eliminate the requirement that the state reimburse local governments for the costs of complying with these acts and any similar acts that might be passed by the Legislature in the future.

Fiscal Effect

Proposition 42 would result in savings to the state, and comparable revenue losses to local governments, in the likely amount of tens of millions of dollars a year. There could be further costs to local governments, potentially in the tens of millions of dollars a year, if the state imposes additional such mandates on them.

A YES Vote Means

You want to amend the state Constitution to require local governments to comply with public access laws like the Brown Act and the Public Records Act; and you want the state to stop reimbursing local governments for the costs of complying with these laws.

A NO Vote Means

You do not want to amend the state Constitution to require local governments to comply with public access laws like the Brown Act and the Public Records Act, and you want the state to continue reimbursing local governments for the costs of complying with these laws.

Supporters Say

 

  • Proposition 42 will cement in the Constitution the public's right to know what the government is doing and how it is doing it.
  • Proposition 42 will clarify that local government agencies, and not the state, are responsible for the costs of compliance with the public-access laws.

 

Opponents Say

 

  • Local governments can’t be relied upon to comply fully with these laws if they must bear the costs themselves.   
  • It’s wrong for the state to impose the costs of complying with these laws on local governments.  The state should continue to pay those costs.