Measure introduced to thwart CPRA enforcement

Legislation was introduced just before last Friday’s deadline that would make it more difficult for CPRA requesters to go to court to protect their right to information when their requests are denied.

The bill, SB 615 by Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), would also impose high burdens to recover requesters’ attorney’s fees and costs should they prevail in the litigation.

SB 615 would require a requester who disputes an agency’s denial of their request to “meet and confer in good faith” with the agency in an attempt to informally resolve each issue. The CPRA already requires agencies to assist requesters in identifying records making the meet and confer requirement redundant.

Moreover, the meet and confer provision would result in unnecessary and additional delay to access government held information.

Requiring requesters to meet and confer before they sue under the CPRA raises the specter that the bill was introduced to provide agencies with an opportunity to strong arm requesters into bargaining away their right to information that they might otherwise be able to obtain under the law.

The bill also would saddle requesters who prevail in CPRA litigation with the burden of satisfying nearly impossible-to-meet standards before they could obtain their attorney’s fees and costs.

CNPA staff is scheduled to meet with the Senator’s office next week to explain the harmful impact on the public’s right to know and dissuade the Senator from pursuing the idea.