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Rushed Transparency Measure Raises League Concerns

June 26, 2013
Transparency measure SCA 3 (Leno) is quickly making its way through the legislative process despite concerns regarding costly and cherry-picked mandates.
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the measure on Tuesday sending it to the full Senate for a vote. The League sent Sen. Mark Leno a letter of concern on Monday about the rushed nature of such a serious proposal and the lack of thoughtful legislative review. The letter is available online.

SCA 3 requires local governments to comply with provisions of the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and the Ralph M. Brown Act relating to access of public records and meeting information. The League’s publications on these laws, Open & Public IV: A Guide to the Ralph M. Brown Act and The People’s Business: A Guide to the California Public Records Act, are available on the League's Open Government web page
The League’s letter of concern raised issues about the measure’s rushed timing, future costs to local agencies and the need for transparency equality. SCA 3 was first available in print on June 21 and rushed to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committees for hearings on Tuesday. Passed by both committees, the measure headed straight to the Senate floor. A constitutional amendment is a very serious proposal and difficult to change once enacted. The rushed timing of SCA 3 raises process issues and concerns that the Legislature may act in haste without sufficient time for due diligence.
The stated point of this measure is to ensure that the state benefits from budget savings by avoiding state mandate costs on local governments associated with the existing Public Records Act and Brown Act, while still ensuring that public access is preserved. The drafting of this measure, however, provides an avenue for these laws and duties to be expanded while relieving the state from any concerns about the additional costs imposed.  
SCA 3 expands provisions added to the state Constitution through the passage of League-supported Proposition 59 in 2004. The Legislature has exempted its own activities from the standards given to local agencies. The League believes that if the Legislature is serious about expanding transparency and open government, the Legislature should have the same standards as local agencies. The League suggested in its letter of concern that the Legislature should repeal the exemption for itself in this provision of the Constitution. In addition, the Legislature should consider adding a minimum three-day print rule for legislation as proposed in SCA 10 (Wolk).  
Because SCA 3 amends the California Constitution, it will ultimately need voter approval. To take effect, the measure must be passed by the Legislature with a two-thirds vote before being transferred to the Secretary of State (SOS). The SOS then follows the standard initiative preparation procedure to place the measure before voters on the general election ballot.

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