Posts Tagged ‘California Public Records Act’

FOI Daily Dose: California reverses ruling on public records, New Mexico open government group fights for previously denied records

California to reverse ruling on public records

Pressure from reporters and open government advocates helped reverse legislation in California this week that threatened to make key parts of the state’s Public Records Act optional, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The California legislature passed Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal on June 14 with an inconspicuous trailer bill to help the state save money on reimbursing local governments when they fulfill records requests (see previous post).  The bill said agencies no longer needed to explain why they were unable to meet requests, and they could provide data in any form of their choosing.

Once the bill was passed, it attracted immediate criticism from news outlets and citizens who wrote editorials, emailed and called legislators en masse, according to the Times.

Public voices grew louder until Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) proposed legislation June 19 to rescind the bill’s negative side effects. But Pérez’s proposal was blocked in the Senate later that afternoon by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Steinberg suggested passing the original legislation and then passing a constitutional amendment one year later to reinstate the records act and force local governments to pay for all its costs, the Times said (see another previous post).

But the one-year window of government secrecy induced more public outcry, so the legislature eventually agreed to pass both Pérez’s substitute bill and Steinberg’s constitutional amendment, calling it a short-term and a long-term solution.

Open government group in New Mexico fights for previously denied records

Freedom of information advocates in New Mexico are requesting previously denied records about the travel and expenses of Gov. Susana Martinez’s security detail during the 2012 election season, according to the ABQ Journal.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG) filed an inspection of Public Records Act request July 25 for “the schedules of any overtime paid to and all travel expenses of officers” assigned to Martinez’s personal security team when she made several political trips in August-October 2012, the Journal said.

The Department of Public Safety and the Department of Finance and Administration previously denied records requests from The Associated Press on grounds that the information might compromise the security of Martinez and her family.

But FOG argues that the agencies’ decision to deny the request flies in the face of a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling (Republican Party of New Mexico v. New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department) that prohibited the state from withholding records unless they are specifically exempted from release under the Inspection of Public Records Act or other regulation.

“This is a troubling response because we do not think it reflects clear direction from New Mexico’s Supreme Court on an important issue of public access,” FOG acting executive director Janice Honeycutt told the Journal. “We would urge the agency to comply and avoid a costly legal battle in which the taxpayers will likely pick up the tab.”

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

FOI Daily Dose: California likely limiting open records access, Ohio could conceal handgun license records

California likely limiting open records access

California lawmakers clashed June 19 over changes to the state’s open records laws slipped into the back pocket of the state budget bill earlier this week.

The 11th-hour trailer bill (see previous post) is aimed at reducing reimbursements to local governments when they provide public records, but California news organizations fear it will limit access by giving local governments free reign to stall records requests and avoid responding all together, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) proposed legislation Wednesday to rescind the bill’s negative side effects. But it was blocked in the Senate later that afternoon by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who proposed passing the original legislation and keeping Pérez’s bill “on hold” until they can wait and see if local governments actually withhold records, the Daily Bulletin said.

The Los Angeles Times reports Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the original measure.

Ohio could conceal handgun license records

The Ohio General Assembly may bar journalists from accessing concealed-handgun-license records unless they have a court order to review the information, according to The Oakland Press.

Under the current law, journalists can see the records containing the name, birth date and county of residence for handgun permit holders, but they cannot copy the information. The records are not available to the public at all, according to the Press.

Sen. Joseph Uecker (R-Loveland) defended the measure to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, telling them he decided to introduce the legislation last year after a New York newspaper published a map of gun-license holders. He wants to avoid a similar situation in Ohio.

“It is clear that journalists will not always utilize restraint,” Uecker told the Criminal Justice Committee. “Citizens across the country are looking to their elected officials for clarity.”

The bill is scheduled for a second hearing this week, the Press reported.


FOI Daily Dose: Fighting for access to federally funded research, California Public Records Act at stake

EFF fights for access to federally funded research

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling all free information advocates to stand against major publishers they say are working to limit access to taxpayer-funded research through a program called CHORUS.

The Association of American Publishers proposed CHORUS (Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States) on June 5 as a way to help readers freely access full-text versions of all peer-review articles that report federally funded research.

But the EFF calls the proposal a “deceptive” way for publishers to control access to content and avoid losing profits from their traditional business model, which involves selling research-based articles back to scientists and institutions for a “massive profit.

The publishers coalition hopes to have an initial proof of concept for CHORUS completed by August 30. In the meantime, the EFF is encouraging open access advocates to tell their representatives in Congress to support a different solution called the Fair Access to Science & Technology Research (FASTR) Act. Under FASTR, federally funded researchers must submit copies of the resulting journal articles to funding agencies that make the research freely available within six months, according to EFF.

California Public Records Act at stake

The fate of public records in California is in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown this week, who is expected to sign Senate Bill 71, allowing local government agencies to sidestep key provisions in California’s Public Records Act, according to Southern California Public Radio KPCC.

According to an 11th hour “trailer bill” to the new state budget, agencies no longer have to explain why they are unable to meet records requests, and if they do meet the requests, they can provide data in the format of their choosing.

The California Department of Finance calls the decision a budget move that could save the state “tens of millions of dollars a year,” according to KPCC.

But in a letter calling for the governor to veto the “relevant portions” of the bill, Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said the legislation will allow local authorities to cut off public access without reason and “ gut key transparency safeguards in California’s most important open-government law.”

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.


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