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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:On the ballot

California Proposition 42, the California Compliance of Local Agencies with Public Act (Senate Constitutional Amendment 3), is on the June 3, 2014 ballot in California as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.

If the measure is approved by the state's voters, it will require all local 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. Further, the initiative would eliminate the state’s responsibility in paying local governments for their costs related to implementing these laws.[1]

The California Public Records Act (CPRA) provides 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 requires agencies to establish written guidelines for public access to documents and to pose these guidelines at their offices.

The California Ralph M. Brown Act (Brown Act) requires 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. Under the act, all persons are permitted to attend any meeting of the local legislative body, unless a closed session is authorized.

The initiative would result in a fiscal savings for the state government, but would 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.

Text of measure

Ballot title:

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

If the proposition is approved, it will amend Section 3 of Article I and Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution. To view the changes that the proposition would make, read the full text of constitutional changes here.


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."[2]




  • California Newspaper Publishers Association[3]
  • California Common Cause[5]
  • League of Women Voters of California
  • First Amendment Coalition[4]
  • Californians Aware[1]


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, are found in the state's voter guide:[1]

  • “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."

Other supporting arguments include:

  • 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.”[3]
  • Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, argued, “[The amendment] removes any lingering doubt about local governments’ obligation to comply fully with the Public Records Act and Brown Act. removes any lingering doubt about local governments’ obligation to comply fully with the Public Records Act and Brown Act.”[4]



  • Rural County Representatives of California[6]


Dan Carrigg of the League of California Cities expressed concern, but not necessarily opposition, for two reasons:[4]

  • 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.”

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of California ballot measures, 2014


  • 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."[7]
  • The 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."[8]
  • 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."[9][10]
  • The Salinas Californian: "But what’s important to us is that the voters make an unshakeable commitment to transparency. Vote yes on Proposition 42."[11]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the California Constitution

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

July 3, 2013 Senate vote

California SCA 3 Senate Vote
Approveda Yes 37 100.00%

September 10, 2013 Assembly vote

California SCA 3 Assembly Vote
Approveda Yes 78 100.00%

See also

External links

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