It’s Time to Strengthen Government Transparency in California

Update: The bill has been amended to not include the penalty provision. EFF has removed its support.

Too often, public agencies improperly withhold records and prevent us from keeping tabs on our government. The California Public Records Act is notorious for its mild enforcement mechanisms, but the legislature now has a golden opportunity to strengthen transparency by adding penalties for agencies that knowingly violate the law.

The bill, A.B. 1479, passed out of the state Assembly nearly unanimously. Now it must survive the California Senate Appropriations Committee to receive a Senate floor vote.

Tweet at the committee’s chair, Sen. Ricardo Lara, that A.B. 1479 deserves a fair hearing and his full support.

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The legislation says that if a public agency improperly withholds public records, tries to levy outrageous fees to produce records, or unreasonably delays production, a judge can order the agency to pay a penalty to the requestor. The bill would also require agencies to tap an employee to serve as the “custodian of records” to ensure accountability. These are reasonable measures that the legislature would have the option to sunset in five years.

Tell Sen. Lara that Californians deserve recourse against flagrant violations of our sunshine laws. It’s time to give the California Public Records Act some teeth.