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California State Capitol. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Role of the Secretary of State

Where all of the campaign and lobbying filings are made

By Chris Micheli, August 12, 2019 6:21 am

The Secretary of State is an important player as a political institution because the office is where all of the campaign and lobbying filings are made. As a result, campaign contributions to campaign expenditures to reports by lobbyists and lobbyist employers are all filed online with the Secretary of State and its Political Reform Division. All of these filings are available to members of the public and media and the SOS is the clearinghouse for these materials.

The Secretary of State’s office is comprised of nearly 500 people whose responsibilities include making government more transparent and accessible in the areas of elections, business, political campaigning, legislative advocacy, and historical treasures.

The general provisions of law regarding the Secretary of State are found in Government Code Sections 12152 and 12153. To assist in the discharge of duties, the Secretary of State may appoint one Assistant and any deputies and other assistants necessary for the proper conduct of his or her office. These individuals are civil executive officers. The Governor must appoint four employees (who can be nominated by the Secretary) who are exempt from state civil service. (Section 12152) The Secretary must appoint a competent individual as the Chief of Archives. (Section 12153)

The Secretary’s duties are specified in Government Code Sections 12159 – 12179.1. The Secretary must keep a correct record of the official acts of the legislative and executive departments of state government and must perform any duties assigned by statute. (Section 12159)

The Secretary is charged with the custody of the following: (a) The enrolled copy of the Constitution. (b) All acts and resolutions passed by the Legislature. (c) The Journals of the Legislature. (d) The Great Seal. (e) All books, records, deeds, parchments, maps, and papers, kept or deposited in his office pursuant to law.

The Secretary must attend at every session of the Legislature for receiving bills and resolutions. (Section 12161) The Secretary must keep a register and attest the official acts of the Governor. He or she must affix the state’s Great Seal to commissions, pardons and other public instruments to which the Governor’s signature is required. (Section 12162)

The Secretary must receive and record the official bonds of all officers required to be filed with his or her office. (Section 12163) He or she must record all conveyances made to the state. (Section 12164) The Secretary must certify and declare the result of all state elections. (Section 12165)

Within 100 days after the adjournment of the Legislature, the Secretary must deliver to the State Printing Office a certificate showing any initiative or referendum petition. (Section 12166) Within 60 days after the general election is held, the Secretary must deliver to the State Printing Office a certificate showing laws or constitutional amendments that have gone into operation, as well as the results of any initiative or referendum petitions. (Section 12167)

If someone demands, the Secretary must furnish to any person a certified copy of any laws, records or other documents filed in his or her office. (Section 12168) The Secretary may adopt rules to authorize electronic filings of any documents required to be filed in his or her office. (Section 12168.5)

The Legislature recognizes the need to adopt uniform, statewide standards for the purpose of storing and recording permanent documents in electronic media. The Secretary must adopt appropriate standards by the American National Standards Institute. (Section 12168.7)

The Secretary must file descriptions of seals in use by the different state officers. (Section 12169) The Secretary must report to the Governor a detailed account of all official actions by September 15 in each even-numbered year. (Section 12170)

The Secretary must compile and maintain a complete list of all districts and the specified paperwork for them. (Section 12171) The Secretary must review the provisions of an initiative prior to circulation. (Section 12172) The Secretary must post on his or her website the ballot pamphlet and other information for proponents of proposed initiatives. (Section 12172.3)

The Secretary is the chief elections officer for the state and is charged with administering the Elections Code so that elections are efficiently conducted and the elections laws are enforced. If the laws are not being enforced, the Secretary must call any violations to the attention of the county district attorney or Attorney General. The Secretary may adopt regulations to ensure the uniform application of state election laws. (Section 12172.5)

The Secretary must develop a program to utilize electronic communications and enhance the availability and accessibility of information on statewide candidates and ballot measures. And the Secretary may send election information to voters electronically. (Section 12173)

The Secretary must administer and protect the office and the State Archives Building Complex for the use and enjoyment of the public. (Section 12174)

The Secretary must keep a fee book for all compensation earned or charged and the nature of the service provided. (Section 12175) All fees collected pursuant to state law must be paid into the Business Fee Funds for the administration of the office’s functions under those state laws. (Section 12176) The Secretary must charge fees as set forth in state law. (Section 12177)

No legislator or state officer may be charged for any search related to matters that are the duty of the Secretary’s office or for copies of any certified copies related to laws and resolutions passed by the Legislature. (Section 12178) The fee for making copies of documents is set forth in law. (Section 12178.1)

The fee for attesting patents for land issued by the Governor is set forth. (Section 12179) The fee for attesting other documents signed by the Governor is specified. (Section 12179.1)

The business programs of the Secretary of State are set forth in Government Code Sections 12180 – 12197. The Secretary may adopt rules necessary to carry out these programs. (Section 12180) His or her office may refuse to perform a service or filing based on a reasonable belief that the service or filing is being requested for an unlawful or fraudulent purpose. (Section 12181) The Secretary must charge and collect fees as specified in the Government Code. (Section 12182)

The Secretary must establish by regulation certain fees that do not exceed the amount necessary to cover the costs of commissioning notaries public and enforcing the laws governing them. (Section 12182.1) Certain fees for certification are specified. (Section 12183) A fee is for entities that covert as corporations. (Section 12184) Any Corporations Code filing must be provided a copy without charge. (Section 12185)

The fees for numerous corporate filings are set forth. (Section 12186) General partnership filing fees are established. (Section 12187) Limited partnership filing fees are set forth. (Section 12188)

Fees for filing limited liability partnerships are established. (Section 12189) Limited liability company filing fees are set forth. (Section 12190) Miscellaneous business entity filings fees are set. (Section 12191) There are filing fees for a nonprofit mutual benefit ridesharing corporation. (Section 12192) There are specified trademark and service mark fees. (Section 12193) There are provided fees for filing liens pursuant to the Code of Civil Procedure, as well as certain Uniform Commercial Code filings. (Section 12194) Special filing fees for joint powers agreements are set forth. (Section 12195) The Secretary must charge and collect certain fees established. (Section 12197)

The State Archives are set forth in Governor Code Sections 12220 – 12237. “Item” is defined. (Section 12220) The Secretary of State is designated as the custodian of the State’s public archives. (Section 12221) The Secretary must maintain and equip safe and secure vaults for preserving the archives. (Section 12222) The Secretary must receive any item required by law to be filed with the office. (Section 12223) This includes any official committee files or rulemaking files and cannot remove or dispose of any items in these files. (Section 12223.5)

The Secretary may receive any items of historical value (Section 12224) and can return items to a state agency from which it was received if the item is no longer of historical value. (Section 12225)

With the Secretary’s approval, a county or city may transfer official items of historic interest or value to the state archives. (Section 12226) The Archives Chief is responsible for preserving and indexing all materials, which must be made readily available for use. (Section 122227) The Chief must give an appropriate receipt for all materials received. (Section 12228) And the Secretary may maintain any item in an active file before it is transmitted to the archives. (Section 12229)

The Secretary must establish a Document Preservation Shop and Indexing Section. (Section 12230) The Secretary must consult with and consider the recommendations of the California Historical Records Advisory Board. (Section 12231) That Board must be used to advise and coordinate activities of county historical records. (Section 12232)

The Secretary must conduct a regular governmental history documentation program to provide oral histories for a continuing documentation of state policy development in California’s legislative and executive histories. (Section 12233) And the Secretary must establish a Local Government Records Program to establish guidelines for local government records retention. (Section 12236) Any item exempt from public disclosure in the custody of the State Archives will be deemed public 75 years after it was created. (Section 12237)

The Secretary is required to maintain a roster of public officials pursuant to Government Code Sections 12240 and 12241. The Secretary must compile, publish and distribute a roster of state and local public officials in this state. (Section 12240) The Secretary must distribute copies free of charge to specific recipients. (Section 12241)

There are provisions of law related to the reinstatement of business entities found in Government Code Sections 12260 – 12263. “Termination document” is defined. (Section 12260) The Secretary must reinstate to active status on its records certain business entities as determined by a court. (Section 12261) If that action creates a name conflict, then the reinstatement will require a name change to eliminate the conflict. (Section 12262) A court cannot order that any records of the Secretary be expunged. (Section 12263)

The Secretary of State is in charge of the State Records Management Act found in Government Code Sections 12270 – 12279. This section of law is specified as the SRMA. (Section 12270) The following terms are defined: acquire; archival value; public record plant; public use form; and, record (Section 12271) The Secretary must establish and administer a records management program for statue records. The duties of the Secretary in this regard are set forth in statute. (Section 12272)

Certain records held by the State Records Center or by a state agency must be transferred to the State Archives if the Secretary makes certain findings. (Section 12273) Heads of state agencies must establish and maintain a continuing program for managing records and information collection practices by the agency. (Section 12274)

Records cannot be destroyed or disposed of by any state agency unless the Secretary has determined that the record has not further value and that it is not appropriate for preservation in the State Archives. (Section 12275) The state agency’s records may be reproduced and certified by different means so long as the methods follow the recommendations of the American National Standards Institute or Association for Information and Image Management. The Attorney General must approve the certification standards. (Section 12276)

A person serving in state civil service and employed by the Department of General Services shall remain in that service and be transferred to the Secretary’s office. (Section 12277) All equipment and records from DGS are transferred to the Secretary. (Section 12278) If a state agency record has been lost or destroyed, the Secretary may acquire the right to reproduce any portion of a public record. (Section 12279)

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