Tag Archives: California State Assembly

AB1819 Passes Assembly — Now On To Senate — A Tiny But Essential Improvement To The California Public Records Act — Will Require Agencies To Allow Requesters To Copy Records At No Charge — Using Their Own Equipment — Includes Electronic Files — Take That, Department Of Alcoholic Freaking Beverage Control!

Assembly Bill 1819, which would require agencies to allow requesters to copy records using their own equipment at no charge, was unanimously passed by the Assembly yesterday and now it’s on to the Senate. As I wrote in March when the bill was introduced, most agencies already do this for paper records, although there are some which, in their frenzied desire to obstruct oversight by the very citizens they were created to serve, do not.

Most notable among these in my experience is the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control which, in addition to being plagued by unchecked corruption, is also imbued with the kind of paranoiac institutional culture that enables heavily armed power junkies like Special Agent In Charge Gerry Sanchez of the Los Angeles Metro Office to feed their need to control by forbidding requesters to take photographs of records during the inspection process.

As amended the bill will also require local agencies to allow copying of electronic records using the requester’s own equipment unless to do so “would result in…[u]nauthorized access to the agency’s computer systems or secured networks by using software or any other technology capable of accessing, altering, or compromising the agency’s electronic records.”

This clause is much more consequential for my own work, as many, many, many business improvement districts, mostly under the baleful influence of Carol Humiston, the world’s angriest CPRA attorney, refuse to allow me to copy electronic records during inspection unless I pay them outrageous fees for expensive storage media.

Humiston designed this policy explicitly to impede access to records by driving up the costs, an illegal plan for which she is presently under investigation by the State Bar. Her BIDdies certainly can’t argue convincingly that use of the requester’s own equipment, e.g. a USB drive, WOULD result in compromised security (as opposed to MIGHT so result in some feverishly imagined world) this bill will likely put an end to Humiston’s illegal nonsense.

And interestingly this bill has drawn no significant opposition, not even from the California Downtown Association or other assorted BID fronts that habitually oppose even the mildest and most unobjectionable improvements in the Public Records Act.1 E.g. this year Todd Gloria’s AB 1184, which merely clarifies that existing state records retention law applies to emails.

Anyway, passing the Assembly unanimously is a good sign, and fingers crossed for the Senate. You’ll find no pre-hatch chicken counting around here, though. We saw in 2017 how determined coalitions of well-funded shadow-dwelling BIDdies can sink even very well-supported bills in the reconciliation process long after they’ve passed one house or another. Turn the page for a transcription of selections from the Assembly floor analysis of the bill.
Continue reading AB1819 Passes Assembly — Now On To Senate — A Tiny But Essential Improvement To The California Public Records Act — Will Require Agencies To Allow Requesters To Copy Records At No Charge — Using Their Own Equipment — Includes Electronic Files — Take That, Department Of Alcoholic Freaking Beverage Control!

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Business Improvement Districts And A Bunch Of Backwater Small Towns Oppose Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s AB1184 — Which Will Require Local Agencies To Retain Emails For Two Years — Read Their Letters Of Opposition And See What Shameless Liars They Are — Especially Suzanne Holley Of The Downtown Center BID — Who Argues With A Straight Face That Allowing Them To Delete Emails Will Increase Public Access To Information Because They Will Only Save The Important Stuff — By The Way Though I Have Proof That Holley’s BID Has Intentionally Deleted Very Important Emails In The Past — Icky Sticky BIDdie Boy Andrew Thomas Of Westwood Village BID Also Opposes — And He’s Also An Email Deleting Liar

Assemblymember Todd Gloria introduced AB 1184, which would clarify an ambiguity in state law by requiring public agencies to retain emails for a minimum of two years. You can read my earlier article on it here. Well, on Wednesday the bill was amended1 and passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 10 to 1 tally in favor.2 It’s really worth reading the Judiciary Committee Counsel’s analysis of the bill, by the way.

And I also have copies of support and opposition letters. Powerful support comes from the California News Publishers Association and the First Amendment Coalition. Here are their letters:

California News Publishers Association support for AB1184
First Amendment Coalition support for AB1184

The opposition letters are predictably stupid, self-serving, and dishonest. They mostly take the position that it will cost too damn much to store two years worth of emails. Obviously, though, none of them provide any evidence because it’s just not true.3 Here are the links:

City of San Carlos opposition to AB1184
City of West Hollywood opposition to AB1184
Various BIDdie Associations opposition to AB1184
Downtown Center BID opposition to AB1184

And, probably unsurprisingly, this last one, penned by Downtown Center BID executive director Suzanne Holley, already known to be one of the most mendacious of an exceedingly mendacious crew of Los Angeles BIDdies, is perhaps the most twisted, the most dishonest, and the most ineffective, it turns out, out of all of them. There is a transcription after the break, but behold a few highlights with commentary and counterpoint.

Suzanne, why is your BID opposed to this? “Agencies would be forced to maintain an onerous amount of data.” And why is this not in the public interest, Suzanne? “the public would need to sort through thousands of emails to find the relevant needle in the haystack.” Suzanne! See that little box in your email client with a magnifying glass in it? If you put words in there and click on something the computer will sort through the emails for you! I use mine all the time!

Explain again, Suzanne! “Requiring the retention of tens of thousands of emails will bury relevant information…” And what is your answer to this imaginary problem, Suzanne? ” we believe the bill can be amended to ensure that the retention only apply to information relevant to the public business.” Of course, Suzanne, the problem is that on your scheme, YOU would be the one who decides what the public business is when obviously it’s the public that needs to decide.

And what kind of stuff would Suzanne delete if allowed? Here’s what she says doesn’t need to be retained: “Every email, regardless of how irrelevant would need to be retained. … Even an email asking a colleague out to lunch would fall under the purview of this bill.” See? Suzanne is asking the public to trust her to determine which emails it’s in the public interest to retain. She seems to be saying she’s just going to delete a lot of emails about lunch dates.

Leaving aside serious arguments that such emails may be very important indeed, let me tell you a little story about what kinds of emails Suzanne Holley actually does in fact delete. Remember all those emails I got in 2017 about BID involvement in the destruction of the Skid Row Neighborhood Council? That Jason McGahan, then of the LA Weekly, used in his blockbuster article? That are now evidence in the lawsuit against the City for illegally tampering with the subdivision election? Well, I got the first batch of those emails from Suzanne Holley at the Downtown Center BID.
Continue reading Business Improvement Districts And A Bunch Of Backwater Small Towns Oppose Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s AB1184 — Which Will Require Local Agencies To Retain Emails For Two Years — Read Their Letters Of Opposition And See What Shameless Liars They Are — Especially Suzanne Holley Of The Downtown Center BID — Who Argues With A Straight Face That Allowing Them To Delete Emails Will Increase Public Access To Information Because They Will Only Save The Important Stuff — By The Way Though I Have Proof That Holley’s BID Has Intentionally Deleted Very Important Emails In The Past — Icky Sticky BIDdie Boy Andrew Thomas Of Westwood Village BID Also Opposes — And He’s Also An Email Deleting Liar

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San Diego Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s Bill AB-1184 Would Require Public Agencies To Retain Email For No Less Than Two Years — Which Is Exceedingly Important — Many Of Them Use Absurdly Short Retention Periods Intentionally To Evade CPRA Obligations

The California Public Records Act explicitly includes emails in the class of records which are open to public inspection. For some reason, though, many agencies are resistant to this idea and think that somehow emails are less recordy than more old fashioned kinds of records. This weird theory, along with the fact that the CPRA doesn’t impose any kind of obligation to retain records on agencies, has inspired bunches of agencies to establish absurdly short retention schedules for emails.

There are plenty of BIDs in the City of Los Angeles, for instance, which claim that they delete emails after 30 days. They’re lying, of course, but the fact that they say this makes it harder to prove that they’re illegally withholding records. And they are consciously adopting these policies to avoid having to comply with the CPRA. For instance, at the famous BID anti-CPRA seminar held by Carol Humiston last summer, she told attendees that:

You do not need to save most emails. If you want to preserve important information that was sent by email, print it out, make a copy, and delete it from your computer.

And evidently this is a problem all over California, although I’m guessing that it doesn’t take such a consistently extreme form outside of Los Angeles. Which is I guess the inspiration for the timely and most excellent AB 1184. Written by San Diego Assemblymember Todd Gloria, this bill would require that agencies retain emails for a minimum of two years.

If you support government transparency, and why would you be visiting here if you did not,1 well, I hope you’ll write or call your legislators and tell them to pass this damn bill. If you don’t know who they are you can find them here. And turn the page for some text!
Continue reading San Diego Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s Bill AB-1184 Would Require Public Agencies To Retain Email For No Less Than Two Years — Which Is Exceedingly Important — Many Of Them Use Absurdly Short Retention Periods Intentionally To Evade CPRA Obligations

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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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