Assembly approves constitutional amendment to protect CPRA, Brown Act

FAC Supports SCA-3!The CA Assembly overwhelmingly (78-) approved placing a Constitutional Amendment (SCA 3) on the June, 2014 ballot asking voters to decide whether to end the practice of suspending the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act (CPRA) whenever the state faces a revenue shortfall, the CNPA Legislative Journal reported today:

Senator Mark Leno [who introduced SCA 3 with Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, said] the legislature’s action “allows California voters to debate the importance of strengthening the state’s most critical open-government laws by requiring compliance in the Constitution.” He added, “The state should not have to provide a fiscal incentive to local governments so that they comply with these important transparency laws.”

Vote June 2014

The First Amendment Coalition supports SCA 3, the amendment to the California constitution designed to end–once and for all–funding disputes between the state and local governments that lead to cuts in local governments’ compliance with open-government laws–specifically, the Public Records Act and the Brown Act.

SCA 3 grows out of ill-conceived legislation that would have made “optional” local governments’ adherence to key sections of the PRA, thereby removing those sections from the category of legislative “mandates” for which the state must reimburse local governments for their costs. A firestorm of protest in June caused the Legislature and Governor to quickly backtrack on that plan. In its place they restored state funding temporarily and promised a constitutional amendment to address the issue permanently.

SCA 3 is that amendment. What it will do is clarify that local governments’ compliance with the PRA, Brown Act and other transparency laws is mandated not only by statute, but by the constitution, based on a vote of the public. That change means that local governments must comply with those laws and must also bare their own costs of compliance.

SCA 3, sponsored by Senator Leno (D-SF), will be inserted into Article 1, section 3 of the constitution as new Section 3(b)(7), as follows:

 In order to ensure public access to the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies, as specified in paragraph (1), each local agency is hereby required to comply with the California Public Records Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title 1 of the Government Code) and the Ralph M. Brown Act (Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 54950) of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5 of the Government Code), and with any subsequent statutory enactment amending either act, enacting a successor act, or amending any successor act that contains findings demonstrating that the statutory enactment furthers the purposes of this section.

SCA 3 also adds to Section 6 of Article 13B, this additional language (as new subsection 4) describing matters that are the financial responsibility of local governments:

 Legislative mandates contained in statutes within the scope of paragraph (7) of subdivision (b) of Section 3 of Article I.

The purpose of SCA 3 is amplified by a statement on the amendment’s intent. The  statement, which was read into the record by Sen. Leno, will also be part of the ballot materials given to voters next year. –SCHEER