Constitutional Amendment Proposes to Exempt Public Records Act and Brown Act Mandates from Reimbursement

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Amendment Subject to a Vote of the People in June 2014

In accordance with the procedures for amendment of the California Constitution, two-thirds of each house of the State Legislature has approved Senate Constitutional Amendment (SCA) 3, which creates a Constitutional directive that local agencies comply with the California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act, and future amendments to either Act, and exempts the State from the requirement to reimburse local agencies for compliance with mandates under either Act. Like all Constitutional amendments, SCA 3 is subject to a popular vote and will appear on the June 2014 ballot. If a majority of voters approve, the amendment will go into effect the following day.

Earlier this year, Governor Brown vetoed proposed Assembly Bill 76, which would have suspended certain mandates in the Public Records Act, including the requirement to provide written notice to a requester within 10 days regarding whether the local agency has disclosable records responsive to a request, the requirement to notify a requester of the reason to extend the deadline for such a response, the requirement to assist requesters to make a “focused and effective request,” and the requirement to notify a requester in writing if his or her request is denied. At that time, it was reported that the State had not paid any reimbursements to local agencies for compliance with these mandates.

In November 2012, voters approved Proposition 30, which added a provision to the California Constitution stating “[a]ny requirement that a local agency comply with” the Brown Act, “with respect to performing its Public Safety Services responsibilities, or any other matter, shall not be a reimbursable mandate[.]” The effect of this change was to eliminate the requirement for the State to reimburse local agencies for compliance with the current provisions of the Brown Act.

SCA 3 takes this a step further and provides that compliance with the Brown Act and Public Records Act, and any future amendments to either, is required by the Constitution, and that the State is not required to reimburse local agencies for their cost to comply with mandates under either Act.

Until SCA 3 is approved by the voters, mandates under the California Public Records Act remain reimbursable for some types of agencies.