UPDATE: With 100 percent of votes counted, this measure won handily. See below.
It looks like the state of California may soon no longer be required to foot the bill for the costs of local governments' complying with the California Public Records Act and open meetings laws.
Proposition 42, which requires local governments to follow the Public Records Act and the Brown Act, is leading at the ballot box by nearly 300,000 votes in very early returns in the California June 3 primary.
This state constitutional amendment will likely save the state budget somewhere in the tens of millions of dollars a year.
The measure was first proposed in response to the backlash against a bill Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year that would have weakened the responsibility for local governments to comply with the two laws: The Brown Act and CPRA are used by activists, lawyers, journalists and everyday citizens to obtain often-obscure government documents and access to meetings that shouldn't be held behind closed doors.
Proponents of the proposition say this will put an end to the legal uncertainty of who will pay for the costs – such as employee and office costs to track down and then provide copies of the records requested by the public.
“They can no longer say 'Oh, we're not going to do it today because the state's not reimbursing us,'” said Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. “The biggest difference will be local governments will be required to comply with these transparency laws and open meetings laws and they will no longer have the excuse that they have today, to opt out of those laws.”
Updated at 10:06 p.m.:
60.4 percent of voters favor this measure compared to 39.6 percent who oppose it, with the Yes vote creeping higher as new returns come in.
Updated at 11: 25 p.m.:
As nearly half of the precincts have been accounted for, 60.6 percent of voters favor this measure and 39.4 reject it.
Updated at 4 a.m.:
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Yes vote, 1,793,566 or 61.5%; No votes 1,122,139 or 38.5%.