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California Proposition 42, Compliance of Local Agencies with Public Records (2014)

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Proposition 42
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:California Constitution
Referred by:California State Legislature
Topic:Gov't accountability
Status:Approved Approveda
2014 propositions
Seal of California.svg.png
June 3
Proposition 41Approveda
Proposition 42Approveda
November 4
Proposition 1Approveda
Proposition 2Approveda
Proposition 45Defeatedd
Proposition 46Defeatedd
Proposition 47Approveda
Proposition 48Defeatedd
EndorsementsFull text
Ballot titlesFiscal impact
Local measures

California Proposition 42, the California Compliance of Local Agencies with Public Act (Senate Constitutional Amendment 3), was on the June 3, 2014, ballot in California as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved.[1]

The measure required all local governments and agencies to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and the Ralph M. Brown Act (Brown Act) and with any subsequent changes to the acts, thus guaranteeing a person's right to inspect public records and attend public meetings. Proposition 42 also made these laws core government responsibilities, ensuring taxpayers are not paying for items local governments have a duty to provide on their own.

The California Public Records Act (CPRA), at the time of the election, provided that public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of state or local agencies that retain those records and that every person has a right to inspect any public record. The act also required agencies to establish written guidelines for public access to documents and to post these guidelines at their offices.

The California Ralph M. Brown Act (Brown Act), at the time of the election, required local legislative bodies to provide notice of the time and place for holding regular meetings and requires that all meetings of a legislative body be open and public. The act also permitted all persons to attend any meeting of the local legislative body, unless a closed session is authorized.

The initiative was expected to result in a fiscal savings for the state government, but will likely result in comparable revenue reductions to local governments.

The measure was sponsored in the California Legislature by State Senator Mark Leno (D-11) as Senate Constitutional Amendment 3.

Election results

Below are the official, certified election results:

California Proposition 42
Approveda Yes 2,467,357 61.84%
These results are from the California Secretary of State.

Text of measure

See also: Ballot titles, summaries and fiscal statements for California 2014 ballot propositions

Ballot title:[2]

Public Records, Open Meetings. State Reimbursement to Local Agencies. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

Official summary:

  • “Requires local government agencies, including cities, counties, and school districts, to comply with specific state laws providing for public access to meetings of local government bodies and records of government officials.”
  • "Eliminates requirements that the State reimburse local government agencies for compliance with these laws."

Fiscal impact statement:

(Note: The fiscal impact statement for a California ballot initiative authorized for circulation is jointly prepared by the state's Legislative Analyst and its Director of Finance.)

  • "Reduced state payments to local governments in the tens of millions of dollars annually."
  • "Potential increased local government costs of tens of millions of dollars annually from possible additional state requirements on local governments to make information available to the public."

Constitutional changes

See also: California Proposition 42 (2014), Full Text of Constitutional Changes

Proposition 42 amended Section 3 of Article I and Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution. To view the changes that the proposition made, read the full text of constitutional changes here.


In 1979, Californians approved Proposition 4, also known as the “Gann Limit" Initiative. The initiative required the state to reimburse local government expenses when such expenses are incurred due to a state mandate. Proposition 1A, passed in 2004, permitted the state government to suspend reimbursements to local governments during a fiscal crisis. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) approved the suspension of more than 50 state mandates on local governments in the 2013-2014 state budget. This prompted the California Legislature to place Proposition 42 on the ballot.[3]


California Yes on 42 2014.jpg

Yes on 42 - Protect the Public's Right to Know led the campaign in support of the measure.[4]

State Senator Mark Leno (D-11), who sponsored the measure in the legislature, said, "Today's action by the Assembly allows California voters to debate the importance of strengthening the state's most critical open government laws by requiring compliance in the Constitution. If approved by voters, SCA 3 would permanently uphold and protect a person's right to inspect public records and attend public meetings, which are principles we all respect and treasure."[5]





The following argument in favor - signed by Rep. Mark Leno and Thomas W. Newton - and rebuttal to argument against - signed by James W. Ewert, Donna Frye and Jennifer A. Waggoner - were found in the state's voter guide:[17]

  • “In the past few years, though, key provisions of these great laws have been threatened when the state suffers fiscal crisis. In short, the state and local governments have been in long disagreement about the amount and level of state financial support for the local costs of complying with the public’s civil right of access to government… While most governments continued to comply during these short periods of fiscal stress, the public’s fundamental rights should not depend on the good graces of local officials.”
  • “[Proposition 42] will ensure access to public records and meetings that are essential to expose and fight public corruption, like that experienced by the citizens of the City of Bell when public officials engaged in criminal acts and sacked the city’s coffers.”
  • “Proposition 42 will eliminate the possibility that local agencies can deny a request for public information or slam a meeting door shut based on cost. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Information is the currency of democracy.” Tell the bureaucrats that the people - not the government - ought to decide what we need to know.”
  • "When agencies pay their own costs of compliance, there is a built-in incentive to innovate to keep those costs down, like streamlining record request processes and putting commonly requested records online for easy public access. If the state pays local agencies for the purely local obligation of complying with these fundamentally important laws, though, there is no incentive to improve."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in the organization's endorsement of Proposition 42, argued:[12]

  • "These laws—the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and the Ralph M. Brown Act—are crucial to EFF’s efforts to defend civil liberties, as well as to the work of every investigative journalist and citizen watchdog in the state. CPRA, in particular, is what civil liberties groups use to expose overreaching law enforcement surveillance programs, from facial recognition to Oakland’s Domain Awareness Center. In Los Angeles, we’re suing the police and sheriff’s departments under CPRA after they refused to release records related to automatic license plate readers."
  • "This is a fair solution. Local government bodies should consider transparency part of the overhead of doing the public’s work.  If agencies have to pay the costs themselves, then that’s an incentive to create more efficient systems to support open government."

Other supporting arguments included:

  • Jim Ewert of the California Newspaper Publishers Association argued that the amendment “will fortify the public's right to access the meetings and records of government agencies as a bedrock principle of democratic government.”[6]
  • Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said, “[The amendment] removes any lingering doubt about local governments’ obligation to comply fully with the Public Records Act and Brown Act."[7]
  • Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, in their endorsement of Proposition 42, argued, "The issue is of particular importance to journalists. Whether they are pursuing records about abusive and predatory teachers, digging into salary data, or searching for revelatory documents about public work projects, the state’s journalists depend on the CPRA and the Brown Act to serve Californians every day. Any attempt to weaken these laws hobbles journalists’ ability to perform their jobs as watchdogs for their communities."[13]


Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of May 27, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $647,254
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $0

The following were the donors to the campaign supporting Proposition 42:[18]

Donor Amount
Democratic State Central Committee of California $463,254
California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization PAC $75,000
Member’s Voice of the State Building and Construction Trade Council of California $39,000
California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization PAC $35,000
California Nurses Association Political Action Committee $15,000
Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Issues PAC $10,000
Professional Engineers in California Government $10,000




Dan Carrigg of the League of California Cities expressed concern, but not necessarily opposition, for two reasons:[7]

  • First, he argued that the legislature would be exempt from certain protocols. “In the constitution there is an existing different standard that applies to agencies other than the Legislature when it comes to these issues versus the Legislature. If this is good public policy, then why is the Legislature exempt?"
  • Second, he noted that “state mandates” are typically reimbursable by the state. However, Proposition 42 is not. “[The measure] potentially exposes the local governments to a growing assortment of additional requirements which will impose costs on local agencies for which they will not be able to recover their cost.”

The Green Party of California provided the following two reasons for opposing the measure:[20]

  • The first related to local versus state fiscal responsibility for complying with open government law: "Local governments are often on very tight budgets. They also have far fewer tools to raise revenue than the state, and the tools they do have are often more regressive than those available to the state."
  • The second related to the greater power of the state to ensure that its laws are enforced equitably throughout local jurisdictions: "Transparency in government should not be dependent upon the finances or practices of any particular local government agency. Transparency should be even and guaranteed across all jurisdictions."

Other arguments critical of Proposition 42 included:

  • Jim McKibben, a representative for the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials, argued that the state legislature isn't advocating transparency, but merely trying to pass on its expenses to local governments. He claimed, "The Legislature has been dying to do this for years."[22]

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of California ballot measures, 2014


  • The Bakersfield Californian: "Trust us. We're from the government," just doesn't cut it."[23]
  • Beverly Hills Courier: "The only way we get “transparency in government” in California is the California Public Records Act (our own state’s “Freedom of Information Act”). It has a loophole. Proposition 42 closes that loophole."[24]
  • Chico Enterprise-Record: "There's no reason the state should pay Paradise, Oroville or Chico for merely providing public records or proper notice of meetings. Local government should not receive reimbursement for fundamental transparency."[25]
  • Contra Costa Times: "Timely access to government documents should not be a discretionary budget item subject to whims of elected politicians. But it is, as we saw last summer when the state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown quietly gutted the Public Records Act as a cost-cutting move. They only reversed course after loud protests from media and good-government organizations across the state. After seeing the error of their ways, legislators placed Proposition 42 on the June 3 ballot to protect the law in the future. Voters should support it."[26]
  • East Bay Express: "[W]e strongly endorse Prop 42, a proposed amendment to the state constitution that requires local governments to follow the California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state's opening meeting law."[27]
  • Hanford Sentinel: "Open government is the bedrock of freedom. If citizens don’t know what elected officials are doing and when, they can’t participate."[28]
  • Lodi News-Sentinel: "Our right to obtain public records, whether they be public salaries or business licenses, shouldn’t be subject to a financial tug-of-war between state and local governments."[29]
  • Los Angeles Daily News: "Without access to government records, we might never know about wasteful spending, excessive salaries, exorbitant pensions, defective bridge construction, plans for nearby subdivisions or teacher abuse of children in their classrooms."[30]
  • Los Angeles Times: "It's a no-brainer. We shouldn't need a ballot measure to require them to obey what is already California law. We shouldn't have to go to the polls on June 3 to vote for Proposition 42. We shouldn't have to — but we do. The Times strongly endorses Proposition 42."[31]
  • Marin Independent Journal: "Open and transparent government needs to be more than a strong suggestion."[32]
  • The McClatchy Company, owner of The Sacramento Bee and Fresno Bee: "Transparency is not optional. It is an absolutely essential basic service, like public safety, and must be factored into a city’s bottom line."[33][34]
  • Merced Sun-Star: "If you value a free and open society in which government is not allowed to hide behind flimsy excuses, then you will vote “yes” on Proposition 42."[35]
  • Oakland Tribune: "Nevertheless, the measure provides new, much-needed protection for the Public Records Act that will shield it from future state budget wrangling. On balance, it's a major improvement that deserves your vote."[36]
  • Orange County Register: "But with Prop. 42, beyond enshrining the importance of free and transparent government into the state Constitution, the burden of complying with the acts would also shift onto the local governments responsible for upholding them, where the burden should have been placed all along."[37]
  • Palm Springs Desert Sun: "As we celebrate Sunshine Week — the newspaper industry’s annual celebration of transparency in government — The Desert Sun strongly encourages you to do so. Open meetings and open records are essential to democracy."[38]
  • Paradise Post: "So despite some of the shortcomings within the proposition, we support the notion that the Brown Act and other open meeting laws should be constitutional within the state."[39]
  • The Salinas Californian: "But what’s important to us is that the voters make an unshakeable commitment to transparency. Vote yes on Proposition 42."[40]
  • San Diego City Beat: "This one's a no-brainer for anyone who prioritizes government transparency or who suffered emotional distress last year when Gov. Jerry Brown attempted to neuter the California Public Records Act by making compliance optional."[41]
  • San Diego Union-Tribune: "Would those public officials still be enriching themselves if not for access to public records? Probably so. That’s why voters should pass Proposition 42 on June 3. It amends the state Constitution to say local government agencies have the responsibility to provide public records and access to public meetings at the agencies’ expense."[42]
  • San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Prop. 42 is a bid to eliminate any future threats against California's important government transparency laws, by expressly requiring local government agencies — including cities, counties, and school districts — to comply with all aspects of the CPRA and the Brown Act."[43]
  • San Francisco Chronicle: "Prop. 42 prioritizes transparency in the role of local government, and, in so doing, takes a step toward restoring confidence in our democratic system. Vote yes."[44]
  • San Jose Mercury News: "Timely access to government documents should not be subject to the whims of elected politicians."[45]
  • San Mateo Daily Journal: "While we disagree with the premise that local governments should pay for a state mandate, but recognize that the greater good is served when these acts are protected. Vote yes."[46]
  • The Santa Clarita Valley Signal: "Additionally, our forefathers would see Proposition 42 as an essential tool for something they thought critical to the survival and wellbeing of the Republic: Freedom of the Press."[47]
  • Santa Rosa Press Democrat: "The truth is that compliance with public records requests in a digital age is not as time-consuming, complicated or as costly as it once was or as some agencies still contend."[48]
  • Stockton Record: "These acts do not just benefit the news media, although they are essential for us to do our jobs. They are for the general public."[49]
  • The Trinity Journal: "For years local governments and the state have haggled over who is responsible for the costs of posting agendas and complying with the public’s civil right of access to government. The state is, but payments to local entities are slow if not nonexistent, with little guidance on what can and can’t be reimbursed. The public now has an opportunity to put that argument to bed forever."[50]
  • Woodland Daily Democrat: "Local government should not receive reimbursement for fundamental transparency."[51]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the California Constitution

The timeline for the enactment of Senate Constitutional Amendment #3 was:

Senate vote

July 3, 2013 Senate vote

California SCA 3 Senate Vote
Approveda Yes 37 100.00%

Assembly vote

September 10, 2013 Assembly vote

California SCA 3 Assembly Vote
Approveda Yes 78 100.00%

See also

External links

Suggest a link

Basic information



  1. California Statewide Direct Primary Election 2014 Official Voter Information Guide, "Proposition 42," accessed May 15, 2014
  2. California Statewide Direct Primary Election 2014 Official Voter Information Guide, "Official Title and Summary," accessed May 15, 2014
  3. The Desert Sun, "Our Voice: Californians must vote for open government," May 15, 2014
  4. Yes on 42 - Protect the Public's Right
  5. The Sacramento Bee, "California Public Records Act amendment going to June ballot," September 10, 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 San Jose Mercury News, "Calif. voters to consider public records amendment," September 10, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Capital Weekly, "Tensions over PRA, Brown Act," November 7, 2013
  8. City of San Jose, "Recommendation - Propositions 41 and 42," April 30, 2014
  9. City of Oakland, "Support For Prop 42," May 15, 2014
  10. Yes on 42, "Who Supports Prop 42?," accessed May 28, 2014
  11., "CAGOP 2014 Endorsements," accessed April 21, 2014 (dead link)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Electronic Frontier Foundation, "California Voters: Check Yes on Prop. 42," May 14, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 SPJ-NorCal, "SPJ-NorCal Supports Proposition 42," May 22, 2014
  14. Epoch Times, "Calif. Senate Committee Passes Public Records Amendment," June 26, 2013
  15. California Labor Federation, "June 2014 Primary Endorsements," accessed April 22, 2014
  16. Pacific Media Workers Guild, "Local endorses state sunshine measure," April 27, 2014
  17. California Statewide Direct Primary Election 2014 Official Voter Information Guide, "Arguments and Rebuttals," accessed May 15, 2014
  18. California Secretary of State, "Campaign Finance: Yes on 42, The Public's Right to Know Act, Sponsored by Firefighters & Building Trade Organizations," accessed June 3, 2014
  19. Rural County Representatives of California, "The Voice of Rural California," accessed April 21, 2014
  20. 20.0 20.1 Green Party of California, "Why the Green Party opposes Proposition 42"," accessed May 25, 2014
  21. Legal Insurrection, "California Tea Party Group’s Picks for June 3rd Election," June 2, 2014
  22. Los Angeles Times, "California to vote on veterans housing program, public access funding," May 25, 2014
  23. The Bakersfield Californian, "Keep our govt open by voting yes on Prop 42," May 14, 2014
  24. Beverly Hills Courier, "Courier Endorsements For 3rd District L.A. County Supervisor And Prop. 42," May 15, 2014
  25. Chico Enterprise-Record, "Editorial: Eliminate the wiggle room on public records," March 20, 2014
  26. Contra Costa Times, "Contra Costa Times endorsement: California voters should approve Proposition 42 in June," March 18, 2014
  27. East Bay Express, "Vote Sbranti, Corbett, Honda, and Torlakson," May 21, 2014
  28. Hanford Sentinel, "Our View: Yes on Propositions 41 and 42," May 10, 2014
  29. Lodi News-Sentinel, "Editorial: Proposition 42 will protect the public’s access to government records," May 17, 2014
  30. Los Angeles Daily News, "Prop. 42 would protect Public Records Act: Editorial," March 18, 2014
  31. Los Angeles Times, "Yes on Proposition 42," May 18, 2014
  32. Marin Independent Journal, "Editorial: Marin IJ recommends passage of Props. 41 and 42," May 25, 2014
  33. The Sacramento Bee, "Editorial: Preserve free and open government with Prop. 42," March 31, 2014
  34. Fresno Bee, "EDITORIAL: Preserve open government with 'yes' on Prop. 42," March 30, 2014
  35. Merced Sun-Star, "Our View: Preserve free and open government with Proposition 42," March 31, 2014 (dead link)
  36. Oakland Tribune, "Oakland Tribune endorsement: California voters should approve Prop. 42 in June," March 18, 2014
  37. Orange County Register, "Editorial: Prop. 42 preserves open government," May 2, 2014
  38. The Desert Sun, "Our Voice: Vote yes on Proposition 42," March 16, 2014
  39. Paradise Post, "Editorial: Proposition 42 is not perfect but needed," March 28, 2014
  40. The Salinas Californian, "Vote yes on Prop. 42," March 20, 2014
  41. San Diego City Beat, "Our June 3 primary-election endorsements," May 7, 2014
  42. Contra Costa Times, "San Diego Union-Tribune endorsement: For open government, ‘yes’ on Prop. 42," April 18, 2014
  43. San Francisco Bay Guardian, "Guardian endorsements," April 29, 2014
  44. San Francisco Chronicle, "Prop. 42 - vote for transparency in government," May 4, 2014
  45. San Jose Mercury News, "Mercury News editorial: Yes on Proposition 42 to protect Public Records Act," May 13, 2014
  46. San Mateo Daily Journal, "Editorial: Yes on Proposition 42," May 16, 2014
  47. The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, "Our View: Vote yes on Proposition 42," May 18, 2014
  48. Santa Rosa Press Democrat, "PD Editorial: Yes on 42: This shouldn't be optional," April 19, 2014
  49. Stockton Record, "Thumbs -- Published May 20, 2014," May 20, 2014
  50. The Trinity Journal, "Yes on 42; Bradford choice for clerk/recorder/assessor," May 21, 2014
  51. Woodland Daily Democrat, "Bringing light to our state's public records," March 21, 2014