Remember all the way back in late mid February when Assemblymember Laura Friedman introduced AB 700, which would have made the office locations and schedules of faculty at public universities and colleges exempt from release under the California Public Records Act? Well, yesterday it came out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee having been completely rewritten.
Previously, as I said, it exempted the office numbers and physical locations of faculty from release. This was both silly and unnecessary. But now it’s a much more formidable, much more reasonable bill. First of all it’s more narrow in that it applies only to researchers rather than to faculty in general. Second, it’s much more serious in its proposed effect, which is to exempt a variety of prepublication research-related materials from release.
And although I can’t stand to see public access to public records limited, I will admit that I can see that it’s not possible to carry on an effective research program if everyone in the world has access to your preliminary drafts, your working papers, emails between you and your collaborators on your work, and the other such things that would be exempted by this bill, should it pass.
And, I guess, I think it should pass. It does still contain an objectionable exemption for appointment calendars, which I don’t like. And although it contains a definition of researcher it fails to define research, which will have to be hashed out in court at some point. Also, it’s possible that much of this material is already exempt under the catch-all at §6255(a), but it’s better for everyone, requesters as well as agencies, to rely on that nonsense as little as possible. But overall it’s not a bad bill. Turn the page for a transcription of the proposed new language.
Continue reading Assemblymember Laura Friedman’s AB700 — Adding CPRA Exemptions For University Faculty — Was Completely Rewritten In The Assembly Judiciary Committee On Monday — Now Mostly Exempts Various Unpublished Research Materials Instead Of Office Numbers — And Although It Pains Me To Admit That It’s Reasonable To Add Exemptions To The Law — Most Of These New Ones Actually Make Some Sense
The California Public Records Act presently requires agencies to allow anyone to “inspect” records at no charge. This is an incredibly important right, tempered only slightly by the fact that the law also allows agencies to charge people for copies of the records. The ability to charge is used by too many agencies as a way to discourage free inspection, and one way that they do this is to forbid people from making their own copies with their own equipment.
This has been an issue in California for decades, but it’s become much more prominent with the widespread use of phones and extremely portable document scanners. These days pretty much every member of the public already owns photographic equipment capable of making sufficiently high quality reproductions of paper records. So not only is it extremely disconcerting when an agency forbids photography of records, but the refusal affects many more people than it might have in the past.
Just for instance, probably in response to the paranoid psychosis of Special Agent in Charge Gerry Sanchez, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has recently begun to forbid me from photographing records, justifying their obvious obstruction with various nonsensically unsupportable claims about security and cell phones. So what a pleasant surprise to learn yesterday of the introduction in the Assembly of AB-1819, which would amend the CPRA to state explicitly that agencies must allow people to make their own copies at no charge.
The bill was introduced by the entire Assembly Committee on the Judiciary, so I imagine that that means it has pretty widespread support. Even the three Republican members of the Committee are listed among the sponsors. And it’s hard to imagine what legitimate reasons there might be for opposing this. But it never hurts to speak up, so consider getting in touch with your representatives and supporting this essential bill. And turn the page for a red-line version showing the proposed changes.
Continue reading Yesterday — March 6, 2019 — The Assembly Committee On The Judiciary Introduced AB-1819 — Would Require Agencies Subject To The California Public Records Act To Allow Requesters To Copy Records With Their Own Equipment At No Charge — Mostly Agencies Already Allow This But Some Incredibly Obstinate Obstructionists Do Not — Looking At You, Alcoholic Beverage Control — Hence This Law Is — Sadly — Incredibly Necessary