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The California Public Records Act (Statutes of 1968, Chapter 1473; currently codified as Chapter 3.5 of Division 7 of Title 1 of the California Government Code)[1] was a law passed by the California State Legislature and signed by then-governor Ronald Reagan in 1968 requiring inspection or disclosure of governmental records to the public upon request, unless exempted by law.

The law is similar to the Freedom of Information Act, except that "the people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business" is enshrined in Article 1 of the California Constitution due to California Proposition 59 (the Sunshine Amendment, 2004).

In 2013, as part of budget negotiations, the Legislature approv

The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.[18]

In 2013, as part of budget negotiations, the Legislature approved a plan to make certain provisions i

In 2013, as part of budget negotiations, the Legislature approved a plan to make certain provisions in the Act optional for local agencies. The move was done in order to save "tens of millions of dollars" in state reimbursements to local agencies that comply with the Act, according to Legislative Analyst's Office projections.[19]

The changes

The changes were added to the 2013 budget as rider bills AB 76[20] and SB 71, the former of which was vetoed by Jerry Brown.[20][21] According to the bills, local agencies would no longer be required to provide the following, but are encouraged to follow them as "best practices":[22]

Open government advocates and several California newspapers came out strongly against the measure. Jim Ewert, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publisher's Association, called the move "the worst assault on the public's right to know I have seen in my 18 years of doing this."[23] Several newspapers, including the Oakland Tribune,[24] Fresno Bee,[25] and Visalia Times-Delta,[26] published editorials against the changes.

Because of the outcry from the media, state leaders backed down within the week and reversed the changes. The Assembly passed a measure to revoke that provision in the bud

Because of the outcry from the media, state leaders backed down within the week and reversed the changes. The Assembly passed a measure to revoke that provision in the budget bill, which Jerry Brown signed into law.[27]

In September 2013 the legislature approved a constitutional amendment proposal,[28] authored by state senator Mark Leno, which would incorporate the Public Records Act into the California State Constitution. The amendment clarifies that local governments must comply with requests for publicly available documents, and requires local governments to pay the costs of those requests in full. The proposed amendment went to the voters for approval in June 2014,[29] and was passed with 61.8% of the vote.[30]

In 2018, the legislature enacted SB 1421,[31] which went into effect on January 1, 2019. The law provides that public records are not confidential if they pertain to an incident in which police discharged a firearm at a person, an incident in which police use of force resulted in death or great bodily injury, an incident in which police committed sexual assault against a member of the public, or sustained findings of police dishonesty. SB 1421 also sets relatively short timelines for withholding such records during a criminal investigation or criminal enforcement proceeding.