California Public Records Recodification
AB 473 Takes Effect January 1, 2023, recodifying and reorganizing this important statute
The California Public Records Act (CPRA) was enacted in 1968 to promote public access to public records, while also recognizing competing interests. In enacting the CPRA, the Legislature, “mindful of the right of individuals to privacy,” found and declared that “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.” Since its enactment, the CPRA has been revised over and over again, in piecemeal fashion. This has resulted in a statute that is poorly organized and cumbersome for members of the public to use and understand, impeding fulfillment of the goals underlying the CPRA.
To address this, the Legislature went to work to make the CPRA more user-friendly, without changing its substance. More specifically, the Legislature sought to develop legislation that would:
(1) Reduce the length and complexity of current sections.
(2) Avoid unnecessary cross-references.
(3) Neither expand nor contract the scope of existing exemptions to the general rule that records are open to the public pursuant to the current provisions of the CPRA.
(4) To the extent compatible with (3), use terms with common definitions.
(5) Organize the existing provisions in such a way that similar provisions are located in close proximity to one another.
(6) Eliminate duplicative provisions.
(7) Clearly express legislative intent without any change in the substantive provisions.The Commission studied the CPRA as directed and this is the requested report. In preparing it, the Commission took great care to ensure that the proposed recodification of the CPRA would not make any substantive change in the law.
The resulting AB 473(Chau) recodifies and reorganizes the CPRA to improve understanding, preserve the public’s access to public records, and maintain the status quo with respect to existing exemptions. Primarily, this recodification splits up the various exemptions previously found in subdivisions of Government Code Section 6254 into multiple independent code sections, making the exemptions easier to read.
Under AB 473, the CPRA recodification will become operative on January 1, 2023, beginning with Government Code § 7931.000. BBK recognizes that many agencies have standard language built into their templates for responding to CPRA requests, including code citations pointing to the specific exemptions which might be claimed in any particular CPRA response. To aid in finding the new code sections, BBK is developing a new app which will be available for download to a smart device and will translate the old code sections into the new code sections instantly.
A fan of GC 6254(f) for ongoing investigations? Simply open the ARC PRA Recodification app and type in 6254(f). Hit search and watch as 7923.600-625 populates for your reference. Note how the previous singular section (GC 6254(f)), now is explained across six distinct code sections, making it much easier to isolate the specific exemption sought. Know what the new code citation is but want to refer to the previous section? The app will work in reverse as well, allowing users to type in the recodified section number and retrieve the original CPRA code reference. This easy to use app will be free to download and available in early 2023.
In the interim, a complete disposition table is available from the California Law Revision Commission website. Agencies are encouraged to review their standard CPRA request and response templates, updating with the newly codified sections.
Disclaimer: BBK Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.