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To protect and serve the common interests of its newsmedia members, to help members inform and thereby strengthen their communities, and to foster the highest ideals, ethics and traditions of journalism, a free press and the news profession.

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Public records tweak passes Assembly on consent

Public records tweak passes Assembly on consent

CNPA’s sponsored bill to amend the California Public Records Act to better protect records requesters has passed out of the Assembly with no “no” votes. It is up for a concurrence vote in the Senate before it heads to the governor’s desk.

SB 1244 by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) was introduced after a public records requester was sued by a local school district. The district then sought attorneys fees from the requester for the litigation, arguing that the language of the statute allowed “plaintiffs” to recover fees.

This interpretation is problematic because it puts all records requesters at risk that they could be sued for making a request, and then on the hook for fees. This was never the legislature’s intention.

SB 1244 changes the word “plaintiff” to “requester” to clarify that the law’s attorney fee provision is not used as a cudgel to intimidate and burden a person who seeks information from the government. This protects the integrity of the Public Records Act and ensures that journalists are not risking legal liability by simply seeking records to do their work.