ca_capitol_building_2-1Proposition 54 on Tuesday’s statewide ballot—strongly supported by Californians Aware—would impose on the California Legislature requirements substantially equivalent to those in the Ralph M. Brown Act that the Legislature has mandated for years on local government agencies. Three major parallels are immediately apparent.

72 Hour Notice to the Public

The Brown Act states, in Government Code section 54954.2: At least 72 hours before a regular meeting, the legislative body of the local agency, or its designee, shall post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting, including items to be discussed in closed session . . . The agenda shall specify the time and location of the regular meeting and shall be posted in a location that is freely accessible to members of the public and on the local agency’s Internet Web site . . . No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not appearing on the posted agenda.

Proposition 54 would add this provision to the California Constitution: No bill may be passed or ultimately become a statute unless the bill with any amendments has been printed, distributed to the members, and published on the Internet, in its final form, for at least 72 hours before the vote, except that this notice period may be waived if the Governor has submitted to the Legislature a written statement that dispensing with this notice period for that bill is necessary to address a state of emergency . .

Spectator’s Right to Record

The Brown Act states, in Government Code sections 54953.5 and 54953.6: Any person attending an open and public meeting of a legislative body of a local agency shall have the right to record the proceedings with an audio or video recorder or a still or motion picture camera in the absence of a reasonable finding by the legislative body of the local agency that the recording cannot continue without noise, illumination, or obstruction of view that constitutes, or would constitute, a persistent disruption of the proceedings.

Proposition 54 would add this provision to the California Constitution: The right to attend open and public proceedings includes the right of any person to record by audio or video means any and all parts of the proceedings and to broadcast or otherwise transmit them; provided that the Legislature may adopt reasonable rules . . . regulating the placement and use of the equipment for recording or broadcasting the proceedings for the sole purpose of minimizing disruption of the proceedings.

Use of Audiovisual Recordings

The Brown Act has never attempted to regulate the public’s use of video or audio recordings of local government meetings, and the issue appears to have arisen only recently, when a mayor’s attempt to sue a citizen for use of official city video recordings in alleged violation of copyright laws was rejected by a federal district court.

Proposition 54 would add the following provision to the Government Code, to replace a criminal “political use” ban by the Assembly that was recently challenged in court as unconstitutional, in a case then mooted for having been hastily repealed.

Televised or other audiovisual recordings of the public proceedings of each house of the Legislature and the committees thereof may be used for any legitimate purpose and without the imposition of any fee due to the State or any public agency or public corporation thereof.