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AB-289 California Public Records Act Ombudsperson.(2019-2020)



Current Version: 04/24/19 - Amended Assembly         Compare Versions information image


AB289:v97#DOCUMENT

Revised  May 16, 2019
Amended  IN  Assembly  April 24, 2019
Amended  IN  Assembly  March 21, 2019

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 289


Introduced by Assembly Member Fong Members Fong and Gonzalez

January 28, 2019


An act to add Article 5 (commencing with Section 8549) to Chapter 6.5 of Division 1 of Title 2 of the Government Code, relating to public records, and making an appropriation therefor.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 289, as amended, Fong. California Public Records Act Ombudsman. Ombudsperson.
The California Public Records Act requires state and local agencies to make their records available for public inspection, unless an exemption from disclosure applies. The act declares that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.
Existing law creates the California State Auditor’s Office, which is independent of the executive branch and legislative control, to examine and report annually upon the financial statements prepared by the executive branch. Existing law establishes, within the State Treasury, the State Audit Fund, which is a continuously appropriated fund, for the expenses of the California State Auditor.
This bill would establish, within the California State Auditor’s Office, the California Public Records Act Ombudsman. Ombudsperson. The bill would require the California State Auditor to appoint the ombudsman ombudsperson subject to certain requirements. The bill would require the ombudsman ombudsperson to receive requests for review from members of the public who believe that a state agency improperly denied a public records request made by that member of the public pursuant to the California Public Records Act. and investigate requests for review, as defined, determine whether the denials of original requests, as defined, complied with the California Public Records Act, and issue written opinions of its determination, as provided. The bill would require the ombudsman ombudsperson to create a process to that effect, and would authorize a member of the public to submit a request for review to the ombudsman ombudsperson consistent with that process. The bill would require the ombudsman ombudsperson, within 30 days from receipt of a request for review, to make a determination on a request for review within 30 business days, determination, as provided, and would authorize the ombudsman require the ombudsperson to require the state agency to disclose the provide the public record if the ombudsman ombudsperson determines that it was improperly denied. The bill would authorize the ombudsperson to require any state agency determined to have improperly denied a request to reimburse the ombudsperson for its costs to investigate the request for review. The bill would require the ombudsman ombudsperson to report to the Legislature, on or before January 1, 2021, and annually thereafter, on, among other things, the number of requests for review the ombudsman ombudsperson has received in the prior year. By expanding the duties of the California State Auditor’s Office, this bill would create an appropriation.
Vote: 2/3   Appropriation: YES   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Article 5 (commencing with Section 8549) is added to Chapter 6.5 of Division 1 of Title 2 of the Government Code, to read:
Article  5. California Public Records Act Ombudsman Ombudsperson

8549.
 For purposes of this article, the following terms have the following meanings:
(a) “California Public Records Act” means the California Public Records Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title 1).
(b) “Member of the public” has the same meaning as defined in Section 6252.
(c) “Ombudsman” “Ombudsperson” means the California Public Records Act Ombudsman Ombudsperson created pursuant to this article.
(d) “Original request” means a request for records retained by a state agency made by a member of the public pursuant to the California Public Records Act.
(e) “Public agencies” has the same meaning as defined in Section 6252.

(d)

(f) “State agency” has the same meaning as defined in Section 6252.
(g) “Request for review” means a request for the ombudsperson to review a denial by a state agency of an original request.
(h) “Unusual circumstances” has the same meaning as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 6253.

8549.1.
 (a) There is, within the California State Auditor’s Office, a California Public Records Act Ombudsman. The ombudsman shall receive requests for review from members of the public who believe that a state agency improperly denied a request made by that member of the public pursuant to the California Public Records Act. Omd carry out the objectives of the ombudsman. ombudsperson.
(c) (1) The ombudsman ombudsperson shall create a process that allows members of the public to request a review of a denial of a public records request by a state agency pursuant to the California Public Records Act. submit a request for review.
(2) A member of the public who believes that a state agency improperly denied a public records request an original request made by that member of the public may, in the form and manner prescribed by the ombudsman ombudsperson pursuant to paragraph (1), submit a request for the ombudsman to review that denial. review.
(3) (A) (i) The ombudsperson shall, within 30 days from receipt of a request for review, determine whether the original request, in whole or in part, sought copies of disclosable public records that were in the possession of the state agency and whether the agency’s denial of the request complied with the California Public Records Act.
(ii) Upon completion of its review, the ombudsperson shall promptly notify the member of the public who submitted the request for review and the state agency of its determination and the reasons therefor.
(iii) In unusual circumstances, the time limit specified in clause (i) may be extended by written notice to the member of the public who submitted the request for review and the state agency, setting forth the reasons for the extension and the date on which a determination is reasonably expected to be dispatched. The ombudsperson shall reassess the circumstances necessitating the extension of the time period specified in clause (i) every 30 days and, in the event the date on which a determination is reasonably expected to be dispatched changes, notify the requester and the state agency.

(3)(A)The ombudsman shall respond to a request to review a denial within 30 business days.

(B) If theto review a denial. ombudsperson requests to assist in its review of the agency’s determination.
(5) The ombudsman ombudsperson shall not disclose any records that are exempt from disclosure pursuant to by express provisions of law, including, but not limited to, the California Public Records Act.
(d) The ombudsperson shall maintain a copy of any written opinion issued pursuant to this section and shall post the opinion on its internet website.
(e) (1) An opinion issued under this section does not affect the right of a person to enforce their right to inspect or to receive a copy of any public record through an action pursuant to Sections 6258 and 6259. A member of the public is not required to exhaust the administrative remedies available under this section prior to filing a legal action.
(2) If a person elects to bring an action under Sections 6258 and 6259 and does not seek a request for review, the ombudsperson shall not proceed under this section.
(3) A person may withdraw, by written notice, their request for review under this section if the withdrawal notice is received by the ombudsperson prior to the issuance of an opinion.
(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the ombudsperson may provide written information, guidance, and advice to both public agencies and members of the public regarding the California Public Records Act, including by posting such information, guidance, and advice on its internet website.

(d)

(g) (1) On or before January 1, 2021, and every year thereafter, the ombudsman ombudsperson shall provide a report to the Legislature on all of the following:
(A) The activities of the ombudsman ombudsperson in the prior year.
(B) The number of requests to review that were submitted to the ombudsman in the prior year. ombudsperson in the prior calendar year and the number of determinations made by the ombudsperson that a state agency improperly denied a request for a public record or records.
(C) Any proposals, both legislative and administratively, administrative, that would allow the ombudsman ombudsperson to function more independently and provide more transparency to state agencies, departments, offices and other entities. the records of public agencies.
(D) The amounts of reimbursements sought and obtained from state agencies for the cost of investigating requests for review conducted by the ombudsperson pursuant to this section.
(2) The report shall comply with Section 9795.

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REVISIONS:
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