California Sunshine Ordinances

Although state law–mainly in the form of the Brown Act and the Public Records Act–governs access rights at the local level, cities and counties are free to enact ordinances that provide greater right of access than state law. These local laws providing extra rights are often referred to as “Sunshine” laws.

At last count, nine local governments in California had enacted such laws: Alameda, Benicia, Contra Costa County, Gilroy, Milpitas, Oakland, Riverside, San Francisco and Vallejo.

Three other municipalities will have Sunshine Ordinances on the Nov. 12, 2012 ballot: Berkeley, Dixon and Brea

Below are the texts of each of these Sunshine laws. They vary significantly in their methods for strengthening state law access rights. To assist you in understanding what these laws do–and to help you pick and choose among the provisions for a proposed Sunshine law for your own community–we have highlighted the language in the local laws that differs substantively from state law. Focus on the highlighted language.

While the nine listed communities have chosen different paths, FAC would like to offer for your consideration one strategy that, as yet, has not been pursued or implemented in California. That strategy is as follows:

Instead of drafting new legal rules and standards, simply list the court decisions and statutory amendments that, over the years, have punched the biggest holes in state access protections, and state that these decisions and amendments shall NOT apply in your community.

That way you will achieve huge improvements in access rights, while minimizing uncertainty about the effect of your local law and retaining the predictability and clarity of the existing framework of state statutes–all in a package that can be promoted (accurately!) as merely restoring the Brown Act and the Public Records Act to the forms in which they were originally adopted.

Sunshine Initiatives on November 6, 2012 ballot:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS