Governor Signs CRONEY Bill Into Law

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a union-backed bill Friday requiring local governments that have passed laws mandating additional disclosures during labor negotiations to also disclose more about their contract negotiations with private companies.

The Civic Reporting Openness in Negotiations Efficiency Act, or CRONEY, is organized labor’s response to a trend among local governments, particularly in conservative jurisdictions like Orange County, to pass Civic Openness in Negotiations, or COIN, laws focused on labor negotiations.

CRONEY will apply to all contracts with private companies worth more than $250,000. The provisions would no longer apply if the local agency suspends or repeals its COIN ordinance.

A key supporter hailed Brown’s signature of the law, also known as SB 331, as a win against one-sided targeting of workers.

“It’s a huge victory for working people against discriminatory tactics by politicians who have put the interests of corporations who support their campaigns above good governing,” said Jennifer Muir, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), which was the driving force behind CRONEY.

“What SB 331 says is…politicians can’t have it both ways and target employees for transparency while allowing corporations who are competing for the same work negotiate for sweetheart deals behind closed doors.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. John Moorlach, a leading proponent of the county’s COIN law who has long clashed with OCEA, depicted CRONEY as a law focused on a problem that doesn’t exist.

“I was not amused, but I was also not surprised,” wrote Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), in his daily Moorlach Update.

“There have been no arrests or indictments of any County Supervisors, any contractors, or lobbyists in Orange County for contracting conflicts of interest. How can you state there is a problem, when it is purely speculative and not validated by actual legal processes?” he wrote of the law the day before Brown’s announcement.

The county’s COIN law 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.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors recently suspended it, so CRONEY wouldn’t take effect unless they re-instate COIN in the future.

In addition to the county, three cities in California have adopted COIN laws: the cities of Costa Mesa, Fullerton, and Beverly Hills.

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.

(Click here to read CRONEY’s official legislative analysis)

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.