Legislature Approves Bill Targeting COIN Laws

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Organized labor’s response to the controversial Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) ordinances has taken a major step forward, with the state Legislature giving final approval Thursday to a bill that expands disclosure requirements for contracts between private companies and local governments that have adopted such ordinances.

A final version of the bill, known as Civic Reporting Openness in Negotiations Efficiency Act, or CRONEY, was narrowly approved by the Senate on a 21-15 vote Thursday morning. (21 votes were required for it to pass.)

It now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for a potential signature.

COIN ordinances, which have been passed by Orange County and some cities, apply extra transparency provisions to labor contracts. In the county’s case, it requires, among other things, public disclosure of offers and counter-offers during negotiations, a more detailed financial analysis of proposed agreements and the posting of proposed contracts 30 days before voting on their approval.

CRONEY, meanwhile, requires counties and cities that have passed COIN ordinances to also follow similar transparency rules for contracts worth more than $250,000 with private companies.

The provisions would no longer apply if a local government suspends or repeals its COIN ordinance.

The bill’s supporters hailed its passage as a stand for fairness, given that COIN ordinances open up government transparency on labor contracts but not large contracts with private firms.

“We’re pleased that our elected leaders in the state legislature took a stand for evenly applied transparency, and against discrimination. This is progress for the middle class,” said Jennifer Muir, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), which represents about 12,000 county workers.

Meanwhile, COIN’s proponents say CRONEY is nothing more than a ploy to pressure local governments to repeal those laws.

“SB 331 is essentially intended to end healthy transparency of union negotiations by local governments,” said state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), who successfully introduced COIN at Orange County’s county government last summer when he was on the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who joined Moorlach in approving COIN last year, has a similar outlook.

“It’s just going to make doing anything difficult, specifically for the County of Orange,” Nelson said. If this is really about good government and transparency, he added, “it should be passed for all counties.”

Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Whittier), whose district includes most of Buena Park and about 500 residents of unincorporated Orange County, introduced the bill. OCEA and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) played significant roles in advocating for its passage.

Among CRONEY’s provisions is a requirement that an independent auditor produce a public report on the cost of proposed contracts at least 60 days before their approval. That also applies to changes to contracts.

Agencies would also have to disclose negotiation offers and counteroffers on their websites within 24 hours, details about negotiation sessions, and verbal and written communications with company representatives within 24 hours. Contracts would also have to be heard at two public meetings before being approved.

The original bill applied to contracts worth $50,000 or more. But the final bill increased the threshold to $250,000 and exempts contracts that are in response to a state of emergency.

So far, four local governments have adopted COIN laws: Orange County and the cities of Costa Mesa, Fullerton, and Beverly Hills.

(Click here to read the bill’s official legislative analysis)

In addition to OCEA and AFSCME, CRONEY is supported by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. Opponents include the California Chamber of Commerce, Huntington Beach City Council, the League of California Cities, and Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens.

A physical copy of the bill is expected to reach Gov. Brown’s office in the coming days.

Correction Based on a state legislature analysis, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the East Bay Municipal Utility District had passed a COIN ordinance.  We regret the error.

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

  • Cynthia Ward

    Full disclosure for union deals AND crony capitalist deals should be the norm, not a political football. First time I have ever seen BOTH sides get it so completely WRONG. Of course the answer will be to not generate records anymore and thus not disclose anything. It will be left to the public to prove these deals did not magically morph from nothing into a finished contract before the leaders which just happens to be perfect the first time presented and thus no negotiation needed. Thanks for playing.

  • David Zenger

    Bad government. This is nothing but a shakedown. There is no nexus between labor negotiations and service contracts.

  • RyanCantor

    “The provisions would no longer apply if a local government suspends or repeals its COIN ordinance.”

    Seriously?

    We’ll let you continue to give out cushy contracts to your campaign contributors, but only if you allow us to deal our labor contracts behind closed doors.

    Can this be any more ridiculous?