Guide to the John L. Burton Papers

Processed by Sarah Starke
California State Archives
1020 "O" Street
Sacramento, California 95814
Phone: (916) 653-2246
Fax: (916) 653-7363
November 2011
California Secretary of State. All rights reserved.

Guide to the John L. Burton Papers

Collection number: LP430

California State Archives

Office of the Secretary of State

Sacramento, California
Processed by:
Sarah Starke
Date Completed:
February 2012
Encoded by:
Brenda Newman
© 2011 California Secretary of State. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: John L. Burton Papers
Dates: 1986-2004
Collection number: LP431
Creator: John Burton, California Legislator
Collection Size: 17.5 cubic feet
Repository: California State Archives
Sacramento, California
Abstract: The John Burton Papers consist of 17.5 cubic feet of textual records and audio/visual materials. The records are organized into the following record series: Bill Files, 1987-2004; Hearing Files, 1992; Asset Forfeiture Files, 1987-1996; and Press and Media Files, 1997-2004. The papers do not cover the years 1965-1974 when Burton was in the Assembly.
Physical location: California State Archives
Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

Administrative Information


While the majority of the records are open for research, any access restrictions are noted in the record series descriptions.

Publication Rights

For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives collections.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], John L. Burton Papers, LP430:[folder number], California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.

Acquisition and Custodial History

The California State Archives acquired the John L. Burton Papers following his final term in the State Legislature.


John Lowell Burton, Democrat, served in the California Legislature and United State House of Representatives from 1965 through 2004. He was first elected to the California State Assembly in 1965 and served through 1974. In 1974, Assembly Member Burton was elected to the Ninety-third United States Congress by a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of United States Representative William S. Mailliard. While in Congress, Burton served alongside his brother Phillip Burton, also a prominent member of Congress who was known for his advocacy of AIDS research. Burton was re-elected to the four succeeding Congresses, until leaving Congress in 1983. After a five year break from elected office, during which time he sought treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, Burton returned to the California State Assembly in 1988 and served until 1996. In 1996, he was elected to the California State Senate, where he served until 2004; from 1998 through 2004 he served as Senate Pro Tempore. His 3rd District included the cities of Belvedere, Corte Madera, Cotati, Fairfax, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon, and Santa Rosa within the San Francisco, Sonoma, and Marin counties.
John Burton was born on December 15, 1932, in Cincinnati, Ohio, but was raised and educated in San Francisco, California. He graduated from San Francisco State College in 1954 and University of San Francisco Law School in 1960. He served in the United States Army in between his undergraduate and law school years from 1954 through 1956. After graduating law school, he was admitted to the bar and worked in a private practice law firm until he was elected to the State Assembly in 1965. After leaving the State Senate in 2004, he lobbied for Pacific Gas and Electric. Burton was twice served as the California Democratic Party chair in 1973-1974 and again in 2009. He founded the John Burton Foundation in 2004, a non-profit organization and dedicated to improving the quality of life for California's homeless children and developing policy solutions to prevent homelessness.and He has one daughter, Kimiko.
As a State Legislator, Burton's legislative interests were varied, but his main efforts focused on asset forfeiture, CalGrant scholarships, occupational safety and worker's compensation, CalPERS and CalSTRS benefits, California's enforcement of the McBride Principles in Northern Ireland, medical licensing for subacute care facilities, ethical treatment of animals, domestic violence, tribal-state contracts, ocean and environmental protection, and open meetings and access to government information. In 1994, Senator Burton introduced bills relating to poverty which mocked his opponents' vague campaign statements, a technique that he employed on a few occasions during the remainder of his tenure.
During his term in the California Legislature, Burton served on the following committees according to the California Legislature at Sacramento (Handbooks) and the California Blue Book:

State Assembly, 1965-1974, 1988-1996, State Senator, 1996-2004

  • Standing Committees
  • Assembly Agriculture, 1965-1968
  • Assembly Health, 1991-1992, 1995-1996
  • Assembly Industrial Relations, 1965-1966
  • Assembly Labor Relations, 1969-1970
  • Assembly Military and Veteran's Affairs, 1965-1966
  • Assembly Public Safety, 1989-1996
  • * Chair, 1989-1992
  • Assembly Social Welfare, 1965-1968
  • Assembly Rules, 1967-1968, 1993-1996
  • * Chair,1971-1972, 1993-1996
  • Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife, 1989-1990
  • Assembly Ways and Means, 1969-1970, 1989-1996
  • Senate Appropriations, 1997-2004
  • Senate Constitutional Amendments, 1999-2004
  • Senate Elections and Reapportionment, 2001-2002
  • Senate Governmental Organization, 1997-2000
  • Senate Judiciary 1997-1998
  • * Chair, 1997-1998
  • Senate Public Employment and Retirement, 1997-1998
  • Senate Public Safety, 1999-2004
  • * Chair, 2001
  • Senate Revenue and Taxation, 1997-2004
  • * Chair, 2001-2002
  • Senate Rules, 1998-2004
  • * Chair, 1998-2004
  • Select Committees
  • Joint Rules Committee, 1998
  • Senate Alcohol and Gaming, 1998-2000
  • * Chair, 1999-2000
  • Senate Anti-Terrorism Policy, 2003-2004
  • Senate Bay Area Transportation, 1999-2004
  • Senate California Correctional System, 2003-2004
  • Senate California Wine Industry, 1998-2004
  • Senate Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health, 1997-1998
  • Senate Higher Education Admission and Outreach, 1998-2000
  • Senate International Trade Policy and State Legislation, 2001-2002
  • Senate Maritime Industry, 1997-1998
  • * Chair, 1997-1998
  • Senate Regulation of Talent Agencies, 2001-2002
  • * Chair, 2001-2002
In addition to his role as chair of the California Democratic Party, as a member of the Legislature he was a delegate for the Democratic National Convention in 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980.

Scope and Content

The John Burton Papers consist of 17.5 cubic feet of textual records and audio/visual materials. The records are organized into the following record series: Bill Files, 1987-2004; Hearing Files, 1992; Asset Forfeiture Files, 1987-1996; and Press and Media Files, 1997-2004. The Papers do not cover Burton's 1965-1974 time in the Assembly. The Bill Files document Burton's legislative activity during his term as a member of the California State Legislature. As an Assembly Member and Senator, Burton introduced several bills dedicated to some of the pressing issues among his constituency in San Francisco (for example, AB95, AB1418, and AB4230 in the 1989-1990 session; SB1008 and SB1215 from the 1997-1998 session) although he devoted much of his legislative energy to a handful of major issues facing California.
Burton sought to create legislation which would enforce California's observance of the McBride Principles in Northern Ireland during the ethnic conflict in the early 1990s. The legislation he introduced placed financial ultimatums on California firms that conducted business with Irish companies in violation of the McBride Principles (AB2443 from 1989-1990; AB1330 from 1991-1992; AB1527 from 1993-1994; SR8 from 1997-1998; and SB105 from 1999-2000). Burton also introduced several bills designed to increase the financial and physical safety of people in need of workers' compensation and sought to strengthen occupational safety (for example, AB2277 and AB3587 (1991-1992 session); AB1002, AB1003, and AB2634 (1995-1996); and SB424, SB1407, SB1705 (2001-2002). He was a strong advocate of alternative medicine (such as AB1552, ACR150 from the 1993-1994 session; AB1002, AB1003, AB2690 and AB2696 from the 1995-1996 session), particularly acupuncture and naturopathic medicine. Burton also introduced bills relating to correctional facilities and procedures, the prison system, and the death penalty (for example, AB713, AB1294, AB1871, AB2246, AB 2256, AB2302, AB2373, AB3586, and AB3675 (1991-1992); much of this legislation sought to ease penalties on women who were in prison for murdering their domestic abusers. Similarly, he introduced tough legislation protecting women and children against domestic violence (such as AB2167 from 1989-1990; AB25, AB197, AB226, AB2472, AB88X, AB93X, AB95X, AB97X, and ACR10 (1993-1994) and advocated for affordable, responsible infant and child care (SB542 and SB1241 from the1999-2000 session and SB1897 from 2003-2004). He widened the scope of the CalGrant program for students seeking higher education (SB1787 and SB1788 from the 1999-2000 session). Burton also advocated for the ethical treatment of animals (horse tripping bills AB2537 and AB49X in 1993-1994 and SB1520 regarding force-fed birds in 2003-2004) and the environment (SB1562, the California Resources Legacy Bond Act in 1999-2000; SB1318, the Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act of 2002; and SB1319, establishing the Ocean Protection Council in 2003-2004).
One of Burton's primary political causes was protecting innocent people from asset forfeiture due to false suspicion of illegal drug activity. Previous to 1994, if a person was suspected of growing, manufacturing, or trafficking illegal drugs, law enforcement had the right to seize any property that may be connected from drug trafficking, including suspected profits from the trade. Because of this law many innocent people lost homes, vehicles, land property, and even cash. Burton's efforts recognized the several individuals affected by this law. The Asset Forfeiture Files includes the background, studies, and press articles Burton collected on the issue, and in 1993 he turned his concern for innocent victims into legislation with AB114.


No further accruals are expected.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Burton, John L., 1932-
Asset forfeiture
California. Public Employees' Retirement System

Series Descriptions


Series 1 Bill Files 1987-2004

Physical Description: 309 file folders, 2 video tapes, 3 audiotapes

Access Information

Access to audiovisual material requires the production of use copies.


Bill files are arranged chronologically by legislative session and then numerically by bill number.

Scope and Content Note

Bill Files were created by John Burton while he served as a state assembly member from 1988-1996 and senator from 1997-2004. The files may include bill analyses, amendments and resolutions, author's statements, testimony, press releases, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and committee statements. Audio/visual material included in the files has been moved to a cold-storage vault for preservation purposes and separation sheets are included in the file folders to alert the researcher to the existence of the material.
Some of Burton's exceptional bills included in the Bill Files are AB2443 (1989-1990), a bill applying the MacBride Principles to California companies conducting business with northern Ireland, AB1426 (1993-1994), revising the 1994 Ralph M. Brown Act, AB2537 and AB49X (1993-1994), banning horse tripping in charreada rodeos, SB1502 (1997-1998), ratifying a compact between the State of California and the Pala Band of Mission Indians to allow gaming to be conducted on Pala lands, SB402 (1999-2000), the Burton-Villaraigosa Public Safety Assurance Act, and SB2 (2003-2004), creating the State Health Purchasing Program which would require specific benefits to be provided by employers.
Audiotapes and a VHS tape have been separated into a cold-storage vault for preservation purposes and separation sheets are in the bill files to alert the researcher to the existence of these tapes.
1987-1988: AB3896, ACR157 (1ff) LP430:1
1989-1990: AB95-AB4366, ACA47, ACR79-ACR138, HR7-HR42, AB46X (25ff) LP430:2-26
1991-1992: AB167-AB3676, ACA52, AJR6-AJR68, HR23, AB4X-AB23X (29ff) LP430:27-55
1993-1994: AB6-AB3836, ACR1-ACR150, HR1-HR20, AB37X-AB125X (48ff) LP430:56-103
1995-1996: AB43-AB3504, ACA1-ACA47, ACR75, SB1367 (30ff) LP430:104-133
1997-1998: SB1-SB2242, SCA33, SCR4-SCR107, SJR16-SJR17, SR8-SR29, SCR2X (65ff) LP430:134-198
1999-2000: SB16-SB2175, SCA3-SCA16, SCR19-SCR98, SJR3-SJR24, SR3-SR37, SCR1X-SCR2X (42ff) LP430:199-240
2001-2002: SB34-SB2079, SCA2-SCA14, SCR3-SCR105, SJR39, SR3-SR27, SB6X-SB31X, SCR1X-SCR3X, SB6XX-SB85XX, SCR1XX-SCR3XX, SR1XX, SCR1XXX-SCR2XXX (32ff) LP430:241-272
2003-2004: SB2-SB1900, SCA1, SCR2-SCR51, SJR22, SR3-SR45, SCR1X-SCR2X, SCR1XX-SCR2XX, SCR1XXX-SCR2XXX, SB1XXXX, SCR1XXXX-SCR2XXXX, SCR1XXXXX (37ff) LP430:273-309

Series 2 Hearing File 1992

Physical Description: 1 file folder


Arranged chronologically by date of hearing.

Scope and Content Note

The Hearing File includes agendas, briefing notes, transcriptions of testimonies and the hearing, press, excerpt from the manual of criteria for Medi-Cal Authorization (March 1989), background and expert statements from the Assembly Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health and Human Services hearing on AB3126, subacute care health facilities, held on October 21, 1992.

Series 3 Asset Forfeiture Files 1987-1996

Physical Description: 31 file folders


Asset Forfeiture Files are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Scope and Content Note

The Asset Forfeiture Files include background, press and news clippings, correspondence, support letters, committee analyses, court cases, studies, and interest group memoranda regarding asset forfeiture at the local, state and federal levels. Burton introduced AB114 in 1993 to protect people wrongly accused of drug trafficking from having their property seized from law enforcement. The files include several testimonies of those who were wrongly subject to the state's former asset forfeiture laws, as well as a wide array of clippings from newspapers all over California. Also included are files concerning the reform of law enforcement-sponsored programs that previous were funded through the value of the property seized under the drug laws.
See Appendix A in the master finding aid at the California State Archives for a list of folder titles in the Asset Forfeiture Files.

Series 4 Press and Media Files 1997-2004

Physical Description: 1 file folder, 53 videotapes, 2 audiocassette tapes, 1 Beta tape, and 5 minidiscs

Access Information

Access to audiovisual material requires the production of use copies.


Press and Media files are arranged chronologically by event date.

Scope and Content Note

The Press and Media Files include Burton's numerous press conferences, cable news specials, Senate Floor Sessions, and swearing-in ceremonies among other subjects. Format of materials include video cassette tapes, audio tapes, beta cassettes, and mini-discs. Such audio/visual material has been moved to a cold-storage vault for preservation purposes. A separation sheet in the file folder is included to alert the researcher to the material's location.
See Appendix B in the master finding aid at the California State Archives for a list of subtitles in the Press and Media Files.