CARS Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the CARS Project?

“CARS” stands for CAL-ACCESS Replacement System. The Secretary of State (SOS) has undertaken the CARS Project to implement a new system to replace the current CAL-ACCESS. In September of 2016, the Governor approved Senate Bill (SB) 1349. The bill directs the SOS to develop an online, data-driven filing and disclosure system.  The new CAL-ACCESS system is currently scheduled for implementation in December 2019.

2. Why is the Current CAL-ACCESS system being replaced?

Originally implemented in 2000, the current CAL-ACCESS system is an amalgamation of component applications that were developed at different times using multiple, now obsolete, coding languages, platforms, and technologies. CAL-ACCESS users and stakeholder groups have identified the following business problems:

  • Program business operations are negatively affected by the current system design.
  • Program business operations are at risk due to an old, unsupported information technology platform.
  • PRD and stakeholders have limited information access and reporting capabilities.
  • Current system technological limitations restrict the ability to modify the current system to accommodate changes in the law.  

The new and improved CAL-ACCESS will provide users a more efficient, sustainable system that is flexible, easier to use and allows heightened transparency into campaign and lobbying activity.

3. When will the new CAL-ACCESS System be available for filers and public use?

The new and improved CAL-ACCESS will be available for Campaign Finance and Lobbyist registration, filings and public data analytics, in December 2019.

4. Is this going to impact how I currently provide information to the Secretary of State?

Yes.  The CAL-ACCESS replacement system will automate forms and some business processes will change, requiring a change in the way you provide and access lobbying and campaign information in the future.

5. Where can I find more information about the CARS Project?

You can find more information about the CARS Project at the following link: http://www.sos.ca.gov/campaign-lobbying/cal-access-replacement-system-project-cars-updates/

For those interested in providing comments or asking questions, please contact the Secretary of State via email at PRDCARS@sos.ca.gov, by phone at (916) 653-6224, or by writing to: Secretary of State, Political Reform Division, 1500 11th Street, Rm. 495, Sacramento, CA 95814. 

We encourage you to sign up for the SOS electronic updates service to receive further project updates as they become available. Please click the "Sign up for e-updates" button on the CARS webpage linked above, provide your email and you will receive a welcome message from the SOS. Be sure to check the CAL-ACCESS Replacement System Project Updates checkbox and enter your email address. 

6. Are stakeholders going to participate in the testing process?

Some impacted stakeholders will be invited to participate in our testing process.

7. Will you be taking input from stakeholders on how the system should be designed?

We held two public forums in 2016 to gain input from external stakeholders. There are no current plans to hold additional forums.

8. Do current vendors need to be recertified/reapproved for the new CAL-ACCESS format?

It is anticipated that current approved vendors will need to be approved to use the new CAL-ACCESS system.  Interface specifications are currently scheduled for draft release in December 2018 and final release in mid-2019.

9. Do you have an unofficial/official specification document at this point?  

The Project Team is currently working on developing an integrated project schedule, which will provide the timeframes for complete initial and final specifications.  The high level project schedule currently has the design specification draft being available near the end of the fourth quarter of 2018.

10. What is the timeline for vendors to become compliant with the new system specifications?

Vendors will need to become compliant with the new system specifications before the system go-live in December of 2019.  The project team is developing an integrated project schedule, which will be used to communicate and specify the tasks and activities relevant to the vendor community.   The high level project schedule currently has the Electronic Filing Vendor interface testing starting in the summer of 2019 and system go-live in December 2019.

11. When are the vendor/filer public meetings anticipated to begin?

At this time, the Project Team is developing an Integrated Project Schedule. We anticipate the schedule to be finalized in the next few weeks. Currently, we plan to set up an initial kick-off session with Vendors and Service Providers approved for Electronic Filing to provide more information regarding availability of the interface specifications and anticipated timelines for development and testing.