Legislature sorts through hundreds of bills before final gavel falls
Before adjourning the first year of the 2017-2018 biennial session, the Legislature dealt with hundreds of bills that could have an impact on Californians’ daily lives as well as California newspapers. Big winners this session were labor unions, undocumented immigrants and environmentalists, while several bills targeted the policies of the Trump administration.
CNPA was successful in staving off attacks on: public notice advertising; the use of free trials in marketing campaigns; publishers of marijuana advertising; and public access to information held by government agencies. Efforts to reform laws regarding public disclosure of body-cam footage, strengthening the enforcement provisions of the CPRA to punish agencies that engage in obstruction and delay, and clarifying the use of independent contractors were met with great resistance by opponents and will be taken up again in January.
Following is a brief rundown of the bills that were approved by the Legislature and sent to the governor and those that failed to garner enough votes for passage but are eligible to be heard after Jan. 1, 2018.
Bills passed by the Legislature awaiting action by the governor
AB 1479 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) would have allowed a judge to impose civil penalties on an agency that fails to comply with the California Public Records Act. This provision was stripped out of the bill in the last weeks of the session after being severely weakened. The bill now requires every state and local agency to designate a person or office to act as the agency’s custodian of records who is responsible for responding to any CPRA requests and any inquiry from the public about a decision by the agency to deny a request for records.
CNPA had earlier removed its support of the bill based on a previous amendment that weakened the bill. It is uncertain whether the governor will sign the measure.
SB 345 by Senator Steve Bradford (D-Compton) would require, on and after Jan. 1, 2019, each state and local law enforcement agency to conspicuously post on its internet website current standards, policies, practices, operating procedures, and education and training materials not prohibited from disclosure under the CPRA.
SB 345 is supported by CNPA but the governor has not indicated whether he will sign the bill.
SB 54 by Senator President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), also known as the “Sanctuary State bill,” would, among other things, prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.
The measure contains two provisions that would prohibit the disclosure of aggregate information about the immigration status of individuals who are arrested and reported to the attorney general.
CNPA objected to the provisions which were added to the bill at the 72- hour deadline for bills to be in print before final action could be taken. The author provided assurances to CNPA, the chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee and the Assembly Speaker’s Office that the prohibitions would be removed in clean-up legislation introduced next year to address several other problems identified in the bill.
The governor, who was personally involved in negotiations between de León and law enforcement agencies, has announced he will sign the bill.
SB 393 by Senator Ricardo Lara would authorize a person who has suffered an arrest that did not result in a conviction to petition the court to have his or her arrest sealed. Under the bill, a person would be ineligible for this relief if he or she may still be charged with any offense upon which the arrest was based.
Gov. Brown has not yet indicated whether he will sign the bill.
AB 660 by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-West Covina) would amend existing law to make it unlawful for a person to interfere with those attempting to transact business with the agency and refusing to leave. The bill was introduced to help address a growing problem arising at several county clerks’ offices in Southern California where individuals offering to “assist” those who are required to file a fictitious business name (FBN) statement with the County Clerk’s Office have exhibited threatening behavior toward the potential filers.
The governor does not like bills that add new crimes, and a signature on AB 660 would be a long shot, but he has not publicly stated his position on the bill.
SB 19 by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) would have allowed, among other things, an action to enforce the requirements of the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to be filed in superior court rather than in an appellate court or the state Supreme Court. Under existing law when a requester wants to legally challenge the denial of a request by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) he or she must do so by filing a petition for writ of mandamus in the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal.
The jurisdiction provision was stripped out of the measure several days ago because the governor and CPUC Chair Michael Picker opposed it. Subsequently, CNPA dropped its support of SB 19.
AB 1455 by Assembly member Raul Bocanegra (D-San Fernando), would amend existing Government Code Sec. 6254(p) to allow local agencies, in addition to state agencies, to withhold documents that reveal an agency’s deliberative processes, impressions, evaluations, opinions, recommendations, meeting minutes, research, work products, theories or strategy.
Proponents are confident the governor will sign the bill, but he has not yet publicly announced his position.
CNPA and a coalition of opponents were able to negotiate amendments to the bill that require businesses offering free gifts or trials to include “a clear and conspicuous explanation of the price that will be charged after the trial ends or the manner in which the subscription would change upon conclusion at the trial.”
SB 313 would also require businesses that make automatic renewal offers online to allow a consumer to terminate the auto renewal agreement online. This may include a termination email formatted and provided by the business that a consumer can send to the business without adding additional information.
The governor is expected to sign the bill.
Bills left on the side of the road
SB 244 by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-South Gate) would have, among other things, shielded public information from the federal government about undocumented persons that are involved in state programs or receive state services, although it’s not altogether clear whether the federal government would be able to obtain the information through other means.
CNPA was successful in negotiating with the author and the bill’s sponsor, the ACLU, to remove the prohibition on disclosure of residential addresses, dates of birth and information about crimes collected by the universities, colleges, or state or local agencies.
It is not known why SB 244 did not get the nod from the Legislature, but it was one of several measures introduced this year designed to protect undocumented persons from intensified enforcement of federal immigration laws by the Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
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Being stonewalled by an agency? Charged outrageous fees for access? Simply ignored? CNPA is collecting information about how the California Public Records Act is working for reporters on the ground. Please share this email with your newsroom, and ask your editors and reporters to participate. Email CNPA Legal Counsel Nikki Moore.
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