OCapitoln October 9, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 331, the Civic Reporting Openness in Negotiations Efficiency Act (CRONEY bill), into law.  The CRONEY bill, effective January 1, 2016, applies to cities, counties, and special districts that have adopted a “Civic Openness In Negotiations” (COIN) or a similar type of ordinance.

In recent years, some agencies adopted COIN ordinances to increase transparency in the collective bargaining process.  COIN ordinances typically include some or all of the following provisions: utilization of an independent negotiator, retaining an independent economic analysis of fiscal impacts of contract terms and proposals made in labor negotiations, publication of offers and counteroffers (“sunshine” provisions), and disclosure when members of the governing body have communication with representatives of employee associations.

While there are already certain procedures and requirements that govern public contracting, the CRONEY bill imposes additional procedures on agencies with a COIN or similar ordinance for labor negotiations on their contract negotiations for public contracts valued at $250,000 or more in the following areas: accounting, financing, hardware and software maintenance,  health care, human resources, human services, information technology, telecommunications, janitorial maintenance, legal services, lobbying, marketing, office equipment maintenance, passenger vehicle maintenance, property leasing, public relations, public safety, social services, transportation, or waste removal.

Therefore, any agency with a COIN or similar ordinance for labor negotiations, except when contracts are needed to respond to temporary public safety emergencies or a state of war, will be required to do each of the following for other public contracts covered by the CRONEY bill:

  • Designate an independent auditor to review and report on the cost of any proposed agency contract. The report must contain recommendations regarding the fiscal impact of each contract provision.  The report must be provided to all parties and made available to the public at least 30 days before the issue can be heard by the governing body and at least 60 days before the governing body can vote on the contract.
  • Disclose all offers and counteroffers to the public within 24 hours on the agency’s website.
  • Before approving any contract, an agency must release the following information about each negotiation session regarding that contract: a list of names of those in attendance, the date, the length of the meeting, the location, and relevant facts regarding that session.
  • Each governing body member and staff members of governing body offices must disclose publically all communications regarding the negotiations they have had with any official or unofficial representative of the private entity involved in negotiations, within 24 hours of the communication.
  • The governing body may not make a final determination on any contract decision until the matter has been heard at least two times at public meetings of the governing body.

Agencies who have already adopted a COIN or similar ordinance will be subject to the above requirements unless they suspend, repeal, or revoke that ordinance.

For agencies considering adopting a COIN ordinance, strong consideration must be given to the CRONEY bill requirements.  As an alternative to adopting a COIN ordinance, agencies may consider negotiating some or all of the COIN topics as ground rules in negotiations with each of its bargaining units, rather than adopting agency-wide legislation.  Agencies may also consider enacting a resolution or policy to achieve increased transparency in the collective bargaining process.  LCW believes that there is some risk that a resolution (which is also legislative action by the elected body) would subject the agency to the CRONEY bill.  As for an enactment like a policy (e.g., a transparency policy), the bill does not seem to apply to such an enactment given the words chosen by the legislature.  It will be interesting to see if such a challenge is made.  Certainly, an agency can propose ground rules in labor negotiations which propose that the parties’ proposals are made public.  This is not an enactment of any kind by the legislative body; rather, it is direction to the labor negotiators.  There is no requirement to go to impasse on ground rules.  Importantly, agencies should remember that even without a COIN ordinance, they retain the management right to determine whether to utilize the services of an outside negotiator, how to cost proposals, and to negotiate desired ground rules.

If you have questions about this topic, please contact our Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, San Diego, or Sacramento office.