Although the CalAware-sponsored online petition at Change.org did not save a bill that would have rescued the Brown Act from being suspended for lack of state funding, those 431 open government supporters who signed it should stay tuned. Their participation and then some will be needed again if Governor Brown’s tax measure on next month’s ballot—Proposition 30—goes down to defeat.
The petition asked the Assembly Appropriations Committee—the last stop before a final floor vote on Senate Constitutional Amendment (SCA) 8—to release the bill, place it on the next statewide ballot after this November and allow voters to add key parts of the Brown Act to the state constitution. Doing so would end the ability of lawmakers to switch off the law’s meeting agenda posting requirement, for example, as they did in adopting this year’s budget.
Although scores of cities and other local agencies hastened to pledge publicly to continue preparing and posting meaningful agendas, one prominent local body has reneged on that commitment already. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, challenged in court for hiring a new CEO just four hours after her predecessor’s sudden resignation, has argued that it can’t be sued for not posting an agenda alerting the public to the situation before taking action.
But the Appropriations Committee let SCA 7 die, and other local government bodies may follow the San Diego Supervisors’ lead—offering lip service fidelity to the open meeting law while ignoring it when opportunities for bypassing the public on key issues present themselves. Proposition 30, in language apparently not felt important enough for its supporters to point to in their campaign—would among other things amend the constitution to provide that local governments could no longer apply for reimbursement for the costs of compliance with any of its provisions—not just the recently suspended mandates. (See the text of Prop 30: Article XIII Section 36 (c) (3). “Any requirement that a local agency comply with Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 54950) of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5 of the Government Code … shall not be a reimbursable mandate under Section 6 of Article XIII B.”)
But if Prop 30 does not pass—a distinct possibility at this point—another SCA7-like bill will be needed, and so will the support of those who signed the petition to move it forward this year.