California Proposition 59, the "Sunshine Amendment" (2004)
Proposition 59 was a legislative constitutional amendment intended to make the content of government meetings and writings more accessible to the public. It was approved for the ballot by the California Assembly by a vote of 78-0 and by the California State Senate by a vote of 34-0.
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Proposition 59 amended Article I, Section 3 of the California Constitution. Section 3 had declared that the people have "the right to instruct their representatives, petition government for redress of grievances, and assemble freely to consult for the common good." Proposition 59 added to this list that the people have the right to public access to government information.
Impact on Times v. Deukmejian
In 1991, a court ruled against the Los Angeles Times in the case, Times Mirror Co. v. Superior Court. The newspaper had requested then-Governor George Deukmejian's calendar, but were denied on the grounds that the governor is entitled to a deliberative process exemption.
In 2009, Rob Davis requested copies of 692 emails from the City of San Diego. Davis sought information about the city's shelved water-cuts plan. Davis's request was denied on the grounds that the city has a right to protect the deliberative process of its office-holders, including its mayor.
Davis argues that the precedent set by the 1991 court case should no longer be considered relevant because of the passage of Proposition 59 in 2004. He points to an opinion by former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who wrote that the Times-Deukmejian ruling from 1991 is now "of dubious authority."
The ballot title was:
The question on the ballot was:
- "Shall the Constitution be amended to include public's right of access to meetings of government bodies and writings of government officials while preserving specified constitutional rights and retaining existing exclusions for certain meetings and records?"
Measure amends Constitution to:
- Provide right of public access to meetings of government bodies and writings of government officials.
- Provide that statutes and rules furthering public access shall be broadly construed, or narrowly construed if limiting access.
- Require future statutes and rules limiting access to contain findings justifying necessity of those limitations.
- Preserve constitutional rights including rights of privacy, due process, equal protection; expressly preserves existing constitutional and statutory limitations restricting access to certain meetings and records of government bodies and officials, including law enforcement and prosecution records.
Exempts Legislature's records and meetings.
- See also: Fiscal impact statement
The California Legislative Analyst's Office provided an estimate of net state and local government fiscal impact for Proposition 59. That estimate was:
- Potential minor annual state and local government costs to make additional information available to the public.
Path to the ballot
Proposition 59 was voted onto the ballot by the California State Legislature via Senate Constitutional Amendment 1 of the 2003–2004 Regular Session (Resolution Chapter 1, Statutes of 2004).
|Votes in legislature to refer to ballot|
- Official Voter Guide to Proposition 59
- November 2004 election results from the California Secretary of State
- LAO analysis of Proposition 59
- Spending on 2004 California ballot measures
- Propositon 59 on Smart Voter
- Pros and Cons of Proposition 59
- Proposition 59 as described by the Institute of Governmental Studies
- Proposition 59 page sponsored by the First Amendment Coalition
- PDF of the mailed November 2, 2004 voter guide for Propositions 59, 60, 60A, 61-64, 66-72