Free the Brown Act from Budget Suspense!
  • Petitioned California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez

This petition was delivered to:

California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez
Chair, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes
Vice Chair, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Diane Harkey
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Bob Blumenfield
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Steven Bradford
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Charles M. Calderon
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Nora Campos
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Tim Donnelly
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Mike Gatto
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Isador Hall III
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Jerry Hill
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Ricardo Lara
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Holly Mitchell
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Jim Nielsen
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Chris Norby
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Jose Solorio
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Donald Wagner
Member, Assembly Appropriations Committee
Assembly Member Mike Davis

Free the Brown Act from Budget Suspense!

    1. Petition by

      Californians Aware

The Brown Act, which requires California cities, counties, school boards and special districts to conduct their meetings openly and with adequate advance notice, has had some of its key protections suspended indefinitely by the state legislature. The reason: there is no money to reimburse these local agencies for their claimed costs of composing and posting a meaningful agenda and disclosing actions taken in closed sessions.

That reimbursement is constitutionally required.

The only way to change that requirement is to amend the constitution. The only way to amend the constitution is to place a proposition to do so on the statewide ballot so the voters can approve it. A legislative bill to do just that—Senate Constitutional Amendment (SCA) 7—has been passed by unanimous bipartisan votes in the Senate and in the first of two committees in the Assembly.

But that bill sits sidelined in the Assembly Appropriations Committee since late last summer, supposedly because it would cost too much just to do the processing to get it on the ballot.

That excuse is dubious at best. The Senate Appropriations Committee, bound to uphold exactly the same spending discipline standards as its Assembly counterpart, found no such cost obstacle and passed the bill promptly last year.

And after all, the amendment proposed by SCA 7 would free state government from future annual reimbursement claims that have recently been amounting to $20 million per year!

The Assembly committee holding SCA 7 is dominated by Democrats, and they are answerable to Speaker Pérez. A directive from him could see SCA 7 voted out of committee and onto the Senate Floor, where Republicans would support it as readily as they have up to now.

Or the committee members themselves—Democrats and Republicans—could send SCA 7 to the Assembly floor on their own initiative, there to be placed on the ballot with the same overwhelming support the bill has earned so far.

Make no mistake—once given the chance, the people of California would make the Brown Act's open government protections safe in the constitution from the state's sorry budget dramas. Please sign this petition to tell Speaker Pérez to use his power and Free SCA 7.

Recent signatures

    News

    1. If Brown's Tax Increase Proposal Fails . . .

      After launching this petition we discovered another move afoot to end the Brown Act's dependence on the the Legislature's ability to reimburse local agencies for agenda preparation and funding costs. Governor Brown's Proposition 30 on the November ballot would remove the Brown Act from the reimbursement requirement altogether.

      Prop 30 would amend the state constitution to temporarily increase the sales tax rate for all and the personal income tax rates for upper-income taxpayers, and would target all new revenue for public education. But it also eliminates the state's constitutional obligation to reimburse local governments for:
      1. any new mandated costs resulting from the 2011 "Realignment" of incarceration responsibilities for certain state prisoners; and
      2. any costs for compliance with any Brown Act mandate.

      But if Prop 30 fails, only SCA 7 will rescue the Brown Act from continued and repeated suspension. And the talk in the Capitol is that Prop 30 will fail.

    2. Reached 250 signatures
    3. Who's Your Community's Leading Brown Act Expense Claimant?

      The California Legislature suspended the legal requirement that local government boards and commissions provide and post meaningful meeting agendas and other related activities because the locals' claims for cost reimbursement to comply with these requirements are now averaging around $20 million and have accumulated to a total of around $63 million in unpaid reimbursement obligations.

      What kind of cost claims contribute to this bloat? You can get some idea by surveying your county and its cities, school districts and special districts—or by sampling the local agency of your choice. By email to the treasurer or chief financial officer you can simply "request to inspect, pursuant to my rights under the California Public Records Act, the most recent itemized claims submitted to the State Controller for reimbursement of costs incurred in complying with Brown Act mandates CSM-4257 and CSM-4469." If you encounter any difficulty in obtaining a response, please notify info@calaware.org.

    4. Help CalAware Spotlight Brown Act Backsliders

      As noted below, there are several ways that local government councils, boards and commissions can take advantage of the Brown Act mandate suspension while continuing to post their meeting agendas, as many have by now pledged to do. For example, there's no way to bring a court challenge if you experience:
      -- Ambush actions: Proposals put into effect at a meeting that were not on the agenda at all, where there is no real urgency in adopting them
      -- Misleading/mislabeled actions: Proposal A is listed on the agenda, but what's passed is Proposal B
      -- Incomprehensible agendas: The use of legalistic or bureaucratic code to mask the real nature and effect of a proposed controversial action

      But what you can do is alert CalAware to such exploitations, and we will report them publicly, including as part of these updates. Just email your report (be sure to name the body, the action item and the date) to info@calaware.org. Put "Brown Act Backslider" in the subject line.

    5. Reached 100 signatures
    6. Many Californians don't realize the real risk posed by the Brown Act crisis

      Cities and other local government agencies in California are rushing into the media to assure the public that they will of course not stop posting agendas for their meetings. But that has never been the real risk. The problems for which there are now no legal solutions include, for example:
      -- Ambush actions: Proposals put into effect at a meeting that were not on the agenda at all, where there is no real urgency in adopting them
      -- Misleading/mislabeled actions: Proposal A is listed on the agenda, but what's passed is Proposal B
      -- Incomprehensible agendas: The use of legalistic or bureaucratic code to mask the real nature and effect of a proposed controversial action

      When the Brown Act is in full force, these intentional or negligent failures to provide a timely "brief general description" of each topic on meeting agendas can be corrected by court intervention, declaring the action null and void if necessary.

      But with the agenda mandate suspended, courts are powerless to act.

    7. Reached 50 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Christine Williams CARMEL VALLEY, CA
      • over 1 year ago

      Transparency in government is essential to public trust!

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Terry Benedict ORANGEVALE, CA
      • almost 2 years ago

      Following the Brown Act is like following the consititution, it's a very important tool for citizens to use against public entities lack (willingly) of transparency! The Brown Act provisions are tools we, as citizens and residents of special districts need very much! I've personally found public employees and elected officers of a recreation and park district in Orangevale, to be (willingly) dishonest and untransparent! I don't have enough tools as it is to hold these people accountable!

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Shirley Bard SAN DIEGO, CA
      • about 2 years ago

      Because of secrecy, conflict of interest issues within San Diego County officials.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Andrea Jimenez VENICE, CA
      • about 2 years ago

      We the public need to be aware of what our government is doing and saying. Government's decisions affect us therefore it is our right to know what is going on during these meetings.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • April Pekary EAST PALO ALTO, CA
      • about 2 years ago

      This law protects citizens from corruption and secret meetings by elected officials. They can claim it "costs too much" to post an agenda or disclose their actions.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

    Develop your own tools to win.

    Use the Change.org API to develop your own organizing tools. Find out how to get started.