Two propositions in the June 2014 primary election moved to the ballot with little organized opposition.
Proposition 41 redirects some of already approved and unsold Cal Vet (home loan) bonds to create affordable rental housing for veterans; Proposition 42 makes it a constitutional mandate, not just a state law, that local governments follow the Brown Act and California Public Records Act, requiring open meetings and public access to documents, and transfers costs in meeting these requirements to the local level.
Prop. 41 amends the Veterans’ Bond Act of 2008 (Proposition 12) to reduce the amount of authorized and unsold bonds from $900 million to $300 million and redirect the $600 million from home purchase allocations to ones for rental. The cited reason is that fewer California vets are making use of these originally authorized Cal Vet home loan funds to buy homes; and that, with 22 percent of its vets homeless, the largest percentage of any state, California needs to provide alternative means to house these men and women.
Under the measure, $600 million in taxpayer-funded bonds would provide such things as such as low interest loans to local governments, nonprofit organizations and private developers, to construct, renovate or acquire affordable multi-family housing for “low income” veterans. “Low income” is defined as “those who earn less than 80 percent of average family income, as adjusted by family size and county.”
Half of the authorization would be allocated for “extremely low-income veterans and the balance for “low income.” For Riverside County, “extremely low income” for a single person is $14,100 per year and $37,550 is defined as “low income” for a single person.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates costs to taxpayers of $50 million per year for 15 years ($750 million total), with the offset being in costs to the public from homelessness (health, mental health, hospitalization, law enforcement, food stamps and housing vouchers).
Prop. 42 came to ballot in response to what has been seen as a legislative misstep. In 2013, to save money, the Legislature passed a budget bill that suspended certain mandates of the California Public Records Act passed in 1968. The bill said local governments would no longer be required to respond to public records requests within 10 days as required under CPRA and would no longer have to provide a reason for denying a request. Public uproar over the bill caused the Legislature to backtrack and amend its proposal so that the proposed revisions to CPRA never went through.
What Prop. 42 does is to ensure, through constitutional mandate, that the CPRA cannot be suspended or altered for budgetary reasons. It also enshrines in fact what has been in practice — that local governments bear the costs of complying with the core provisions of CPRA.
In 1975, California amended its constitution to require the state to reimburse local governments for costs associated with complying with CPRA but in fact, the state has not reimbursed those costs. It wasn’t until May 2011 that the Commission on State Mandates, the agency to which local governments were directed to seek reimbursement, ruled local public record costs eligible for reimbursement. If Prop. 42 passes, the state will still be obligated to reimburse past claims (already on file), but going forward the lion’s share of compliance would continue to be borne by local governments.
The LAO notes there could be a problem if local governments don’t have the funds to comply and continue to fulfill these obligations.