Enactment of Prop. 54
Proposition 54 was carefully crafted with input from a diverse group of government experts and legal scholars, and supported by every major newspaper in California and more than fifty other California organizations who wanted to bring greater transparency and accountability to the state’s legislative process.
More than one million Californians petitioned to place Prop. 54 on the November 2016 state ballot. And on Election Day, Prop. 54 passed in every county of the state and became law.
This page provides the complete story of how Prop. 54 became law.
Additional details on how Prop. 54 got enacted:
Getting on the Ballot:
Before it qualified for the state ballot, Prop. 54 was an initiative petition called the California Legislature Transparency Act (CLTA). The CLTA gathered more than one million signatures to get on the ballot.
October 12, 2015: Proponents request a Title and Summary for petition
California law requires proponents of a ballot initiative to gather signatures to place it on the ballot. The first step is getting a Title and Summary of the initiative approved by the Attorney General. The CLTA’s proponents, Stanford physicist Charles T. Munger and former State Senate Sam Blakeslee, requested their Title and Summary in Oct. 2015.
November 1, 2015: Proponents amend the initiative
After further consultations and analysis with government reform experts, the proponents made minor changes to the CLTA. This included setting back the effective date of the Legislature’s video-recording requirement, from January 2017 to January 2018, to give lawmakers more time to make the necessary arrangements to start putting all legislative meetings online.
December 1, 2015: Legislative Analyst provides fiscal impact report
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office is supposed to issue a Fiscal Impact Report for each initiative that is gathering signatures, to determine how much the initiative would cost if it were passed. The LAO determined the CLTA would impose zero costs on taxpayers. It would impose minor costs on the Legislature’s operating budget to put legislative meetings online, amounting to less than half of one-percent of the Legislature’s annual budget.
December 16, 2015: Attorney General issues Title and Summary
The Attorney General gave a Title and Summary to the CLTA.
December 17, 2015: Signature gathering begins
Proponents started circulating the petition to put the CLTA on the ballot.
February 11, 2016: 25% of the signatures collected
A state law, SB 1253, requires proponents of an initiative petition to notify the Secretary of State when signature-gathering crosses the 25% threshold so that the Legislature can hold an informational hearing on the provisions of that petition. The purpose of this hearing would be to explore any better alternatives to the initiative, or options for rewording the initiative, before the initiative goes forward and gets placed on the ballot. Intervening at the 25% threshold is intended to provide the Legislature and initiative proponents plenty of time to collaborate and reach an agreement on any better alternatives that the Legislature can legislate, instead of going to the ballot.
Mindful of this important phase in the process, the CLTA’s proponents immediately notified the Secretary of State and requested an informational hearing when the CLTA crossed the 25% threshold on February 11.
For years, the Legislature had introduced bills resembling portions of the CLTA, only to halt those reforms and let them die early in the process, usually before their first committee hearing. In April 2016, the Legislature again introduced similar reforms, instead of holding the informational hearing on the CLTA that proponents had requested back in February 11. No reasons were given for delaying the CLTA’s informational hearing. The Legislature proceeded with advancing its alternatives, SCA 14 and AB 884, which constituted fundamentally flawed and watered-down versions of the CLTA.
April 21, 2016: SCA 14 is introduced, closing mirroring the CLTA’s provisions for a 72-hour notice period
Getting on the Ballot:
May 5, 2016: Proponents begin submitting signatures to counties
CLTA’s proponents started delivering the signatures to each of California’s counties, and sent a letter notifying the Secretary of State.
Letter notifying the Secretary of State the proponents have begun submitting signatures
May 18, 2016: Secretary of State notifies all counties to start random counts of signatures, to assure verification by the June 30 deadline
May 31, 2016: CLTA’s proponents ask the Attorney General to amend the CLTA’s ballot summary to more clearly explain how it makes the Legislature more transparent. No action was taken.
June 1, 2016: SCA 14 is amended to weaken the 72-hour provisions; AB 884 is gutted to carry additional provisions, contingent upon SCA 14 getting passed.
While advancing the watered-down alternative to the CLTA (SCA 14/AB 884), the Legislature still had not scheduled the CLTA’s informational hearing, nor responded to the proponents’ request to do so. Meanwhile, the proponents of the CLTA closely monitored SCA 14/AB 884, and produced a side-by-side analysis comparing this alternative to the CLTA, which over one million California voters had already supported putting on the ballot.
Side-by-Side comparison of SCA 14/AB 884 and the CLTA
June 8, 2016: The CLTA’s proponents ask the Legislature in a public forum to embrace true transparency instead of the watered-down alternatives.
The CLTA’s proponents testified at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments where SCA 14 and AB 884 were heard. The committee proceeded to pass SCA 14 and AB 884, which moved on to the Appropriations Committee.
Hearing video (see 30:30 mark) (Trouble playing video? Click here)
June 9, 2016: SCA 14 and AB 884 are further amended
The Legislature continued to move SCA 14 and AB 884 forward, while tinkering with the language, instead of holding an informational hearing on the CLTA. No reason was given for delaying the CLTA’s informational hearing. So the CLTA’s proponents analyzed the amended SCA 14 and AB 884, and produced another side-by-side comparison, showing these legislative alternatives were still inferior to the CLTA.
Updated side-by-side comparison of SCA 14/AB 884 and the CLTA
June 13, 2016: The CLTA’s proponents again ask the Legislature in another public forum to either improve SCA 14/AB 884, or put it aside and support the CLTA
The CLTA’s proponents testified at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Appropriations where SCA 14 and AB 884 were heard. The committee proceeded to pass SCA 14 and AB 884.
Hearing video (see 14:40 mark) (Trouble playing video? Click here)
June 15, 2016: The CLTA receives its informational hearing, more than four months after it became eligible for such a hearing
The hearing included an analysis of the CLTA done by Legislative Counsel, which claimed the CLTA had “ambiguities.” The analysis was not made public or provided to the CLTA’s proponents until six working hours before the hearing.
Hearing agenda and Legislative Counsel’s analysis
Hearing video (see 22:20 mark) (Trouble playing video? Click here)
June 16, 2016: The Senate passes SCA 14 on to the Assembly
June 17, 2016: SCA 14 is further amended
The Legislature again amended SCA 14, but SCA 14 remained a weak and watered-down alternative to the CLTA. The proponents of the CLTA produced an updated side-by-side comparison showing how the SCA 14/AB 884 package was inferior to what the voters already said they wanted on the ballot.
Updated side-by-side comparison of SCA 14/AB 884 and the CLTA
June 21, 2016: The CLTA’s proponents urge the Legislature in a public forum to either improve SCA 14, or put it aside and support the CLTA
The CLTA’s proponents testified at a hearing of the Assembly Committee on Rules where SCA 14 was heard. The committee proceeded to pass SCA 14, which moved on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Letter of opposition to SCA 14/AB 884, written by the proponents of the CLTA
Hearing video (see 19:20 mark) (Trouble playing video? Click here)
June 22, 2016: The CLTA’s proponents once again ask the Legislature in a public forum to either improve SCA 14, or put it aside and support the CLTA
The CLTA’s proponents testified at a hearing of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations where SCA 14 was heard. The committee proceeded to pass SCA 14. The CLTA’s proponents also provided an analysis by constitutional scholar and former judge, the Honorable Daniel M. Kolkey examining Legislative Counsel’s allegations against the CLTA. Mr. Kolkey’s letter showed how each of Legislative Counsel’s allegations against the CLTA was badly flawed.
Letter responding to Legislative Counsel’s “ambiguities” and concerns
June 23, 2016: Speaker Rendon sends a letter to the CLTA’s proponents
Letter from the Speaker of the Assembly to the proponents of the CLTA
June 24, 2016: The CLTA’s proponents respond to Speaker Rendon
Letter from the CLTA’s proponents responding to the Speaker of the Assembly
June 27, 2016: The CLTA qualifies for the November 2016 ballot as Proposition 54
June 30, 2016: AB 884 is further amended
August 1, 2016: SCA 14 is moved to the Inactive File
August 12, 2016: Prop. 54’s proponents remove opposition to AB 884
Letter of neutrality on AB 884
August 30, 2016: AB 884 is passed by the Legislature
The Legislature passed AB 884 as an urgency statute with immediate effect. AB 884 repealed the statutory ban on using videos of State Assembly proceedings for commercial or political purposes; and clarified that public legislative records are in the public domain, to which the government has no copyright or other proprietary interest.
September 22, 2016: Governor signs AB 884 into law
September – November 2016:
November 8, 2016: California voters pass Prop. 54
Prop. 54 received “yes” votes from 65.37 percent of California voters, and a majority of voters in all 58 counties of California.
Implementing Prop. 54 After the Election:
The passage of Prop. 54 meant several provisions must go into effect immediately, including the 72-hour notice period for new legislation, and the right of individuals to video-record and share open public meetings of the Legislature.
But just as the crafting of Prop. 54 was undertaken with great care and legal expertise to avoid any pitfalls, so too must the implementation be undertaken. It’s for that reason that the same diverse coalition of good-government, taxpayer, business, and other groups that supported Prop. 54 are now offering to help the Legislature implement it.
December 2, 2016: Government reform groups and other organizations that supported Prop. 54 offer to assist the Legislature as it begins to implement Prop. 54’s new requirements
At the beginning of each biennial Legislative Session, the Legislature adopts operating rules governing the conduct of legislative proceedings. Since Prop. 54 requires some fundamental changes to legislative proceedings, the diverse coalition of groups that helped develop and supported Prop. 54 offered to assist the Legislature in drafting these rules.
Letter offering help to the Legislature
January to March of 2017: The Legislature proposes and adopts operating rules that are contrary to the law under Prop. 54
April 3, 2017: A broad-based group of organizations asks the Legislature to amend its operating rules to properly implement the law under Prop. 54
A group of good-government, taxpayer, and business organizations sent a letter to the Legislature asking them to amend the operating rules recently proposed or adopted that clearly violate the laws under Prop. 54. In order to assist the Legislature, the letter also cited examples of how the operating rules contradict the law under Prop. 54 and advised on how they could be fixed.