Tag Archives: California State Assembly

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Faculty — Was Completely Rewritten In The Assembly Judiciary Committee On Monday — Now Mostly Exempts Various Unpublished Research Materials Instead Of Office Numbers — And Although It Pains Me To Admit That It’s Reasonable To Add Exemptions To The Law — Most Of These New Ones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

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, yesterday1 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Faculty — Was Completely Rewritten In The Assembly Judiciary Committee On Monday — Now Mostly Exempts Various Unpublished Research Materials Instead Of Office Numbers — And Although It Pains Me To Admit That It’s Reasonable To Add Exemptions To The Law — Most Of These New Ones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

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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

The California Public Records Act presently requires agencies to allow anyone to “inspect” records at no charge.1 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.2 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,3 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

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Assemblymember Laura Friedman Introduced AB700 Yesterday — Would Add Exemption To Public Records Act For Information About Public College Profs In California — Including Their Calendars And Appointment Logs — This Is A Really Really Bad Idea — Is Possibly Pushback Against Animal Rights Groups And Other Activists — But Too Early To Tell

California State Assemblymember Laura Friedman introduced AB700 yesterday, which would add an exemption to the California Public Records Act allowing public colleges to withhold specified information about faculty members. The to-be-exempted information includes home addresses and telephone numbers, calendars, office assignments, and room assignments.

The fundamental principle of the CPRA is that all records are subject to release unless specifically exempted, which is why this bill is necessary to prevent the release of this information. But the exemptions that this bill would add are either unnecessary or very, very wrong.

First of all, sure, don’t tell people where the professors live or what their phone numbers are. But this is already covered by §6254.3(a), which tells us that “[t]he home addresses, home telephone numbers, personal cellular telephone numbers, and birth dates of all employees of a public agency shall not be deemed to be public records and shall not be open to public inspection…” We don’t need a new law to allow that information to be withheld.

And the rest of the information that would be exempted here absolutely ought to remain public. I don’t know but I’m reasonably sure that this bill is in response to various groups and individuals, including PETA, as well as other people critical of faculty research that have used CPRA to obtain information about professors.

Some professors have been targets of violent protests, so I suppose that seems like a reason to exempt their appointment calendars. But it really isn’t. Appointment calendars are an essential tool in understanding what public employees are up to. Who they’ve met with, how long and how often they’ve met with them, and so on, are quintessential public information. Professors are subject to influence by interest groups just like anyone is, and this information must be available so that that influence can be analyzed.

And it’s not just professors’ schedules at stake here. If we exempt these using security as an excuse it won’t be long before all public employees schedules are exempted. Just for instance, ultra-corrupt Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar famously ordered his staff to alter his calendars in response to CPRA requests from the LA Times. How much more expedient for him would it have been to have an actual exemption written into the law?

Also, this bill is far too broad. It would exempt “records relating to the physical location of faculty members.” Again, I suppose the idea is to protect the security of the faculty. But faculty teaching schedules, office assignments, and so on are typically posted on the open internet. The CPRA at §6254.5 requires the release of all previously released information, and publishing information on the open internet is about as released as information can get. So most exemptions for this information will have been waived. What a logistical nightmare for universities to comply with.1

So yeah, I’m against AB700. Stay tuned for further developments. And turn the page for the legislative counsel’s digest and the proposed text to be added to the law.
Continue reading Assemblymember Laura Friedman Introduced AB700 Yesterday — Would Add Exemption To Public Records Act For Information About Public College Profs In California — Including Their Calendars And Appointment Logs — This Is A Really Really Bad Idea — Is Possibly Pushback Against Animal Rights Groups And Other Activists — But Too Early To Tell

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