Last June, state legislators dropped a bombshell that they no longer wanted to pay cities and districts for the California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act even though it was mandated by the state. As part of the state Legislature’s budget negotiations, trailer bills were approved to make these provisions optional, but encourage local government agencies to follow them as “best practices.”
After a tremendous amount of public fervor about such an assault on the public’s right to know, there was significant backtracking and discussion of a new proposition that would continue to require it and that the state should not pay for local compliance. So here we are.
Proposition 42 is a legislative constitutional amendment that would require cities, counties and school districts to comply with the state’s open meeting and public records laws and eliminate the requirement that the state reimburse that expense. While it is inherently wrong for the state to require local governments to adhere to a state law, this proposition will ensure that the state’s open meeting and public records law essentially remain as they are.
The California Public Records Act, passed in 1968, was landmark legislation designed to allow public access to government records, the “people’s business.” In tandem with the Ralph M. Brown Act, passed in 1953, it provides freedom of information and establishes the public’s right to participate in government activity.
Part of the California Public Records Act requires government agencies to respond to a public record request within 10 days and provide a reason for denying a request. Both are important and essential to ensuring the public continues to receive the information we require to ensure our governments run effectively and in the proper light. While we disagree with the premise that local governments should pay for a state mandate, but recognize that the greater good is served when these acts are protected. Vote yes.