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AB-1538 Public Social Services: records: tax return information.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 02/20/2021 04:00 AM
AB1538:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 1538


Introduced by Assembly Member Quirk

February 19, 2021


An act to add Section 19568 to the Revenue and Taxation Code, and to amend Sections 10850 and 14100.2 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to health.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1538, as introduced, Quirk. Public Social Services: records: tax return information.
Existing law provides that it is a misdemeanor for the Franchise Tax Board or specified state employees to disclose or make known any information in a return, report, or document filed under income tax laws but authorizes the Franchise Tax Board to disclose this information to specified agencies for specified purposes. Existing law makes an unwarranted disclosure or use of the information by those agencies a misdemeanor.
This bill would additionally authorize the Franchise Tax Board to disclose, upon request, returns or return information to a bona fide research body immediately concerned with conducting research relating to poverty, measuring poverty and its effects, and efforts to ameliorate poverty.
Existing law establishes various public social services programs to provide for protection, care, and assistance to the people of the state in need of those services, by providing appropriate aid and services to the needy and distressed. Existing law, in this regard, and with some exceptions, requires all applications and records concerning any individual made or kept by any public officer or agency in connection with the administration of public social services for which grants-in-aid are received by this state from the federal government be kept confidential and not open to examination for any purpose not directly connected with the administration of that program, or any investigation, prosecution, or criminal or civil proceeding conducted in connection with the administration of that program.
Existing law authorizes the State Department of Social Services to make rules and regulations governing the custody, use, and preservation of all records, papers, files, and communications pertaining to the administration of the laws relating to public social services, as specified, including by providing for making case records available for research purposes, only if that research will not disclose any personal information in a manner that would link the information disclosed to the individual to whom it pertains, except as provided.
This bill would provide that, for purposes of those provisions, “directly connected with the administration of that program” includes research relating to poverty, measuring poverty and its effects, and efforts to ameliorate poverty.
Existing law, with some exceptions, requires all types of information, whether written or oral, concerning a person, made or kept by any public officer or agency in connection with the administration of certain laws related to the Medi-Cal program and for which a grant-in-aid is received by this state from the federal government, as specified, to be confidential and not open to examination other than for purposes directly connected with the administration of the Medi-Cal program.
Existing law authorizes the State Department of Social Services to make rules and regulations governing the custody, use, and preservation of all records, papers, files, and communications pertaining to the administration of the laws relating to the Medi-Cal program, including by providing for making case records available for research purposes, only if that research will not result in the disclosure of the identity of applicants for or recipients of those services.
This bill would provide that, for purposes of those provisions, purposes directly connected with the administration of certain laws relating to the Medi-Cal program encompass research relating to poverty, measuring poverty and its effects, and efforts to ameliorate poverty.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

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


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Over 15,000,000 Californians are living at or near the poverty line. When accounting for costs of living, California has the highest poverty rate of any state.
(b) Nearly 3,000,000 more Californians would live in poverty were it not for safety net programs.
(c) Studying policies and programs that counteract poverty and its downstream impacts are important for California’s future.
(d) One purpose of the Medi-Cal program and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program is to provide better services for beneficiaries that ameliorate poverty and thus improve health.

SEC. 2.

 Section 19568 is added to the Revenue and Taxation Code, to read:

19568.
 (a) Notwithstanding any other law, the Franchise Tax Board may, upon request, disclose returns or return information to a bona fide research body immediately concerned with conducting research regarding the subject matter described in subdivision (b).
(b) Information disclosed pursuant to this section may be used only for conducting and producing research studies relating to poverty, measuring poverty and its effects, and efforts to ameliorate poverty.
(c) The board may require reimbursement for all direct costs incurred in providing information disclosed pursuant to this section.

SEC. 3.

 Section 10850 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

10850.
 (a) (1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, all applications and records concerning any individual made or kept by any public officer or agency in connection with the administration of any provision of this code relating to any form of public social services for which grants-in-aid are received by this state from the United States government shall be confidential, and shall not be open to examination for any purpose not directly connected with the administration of that program, or any investigation, prosecution, or criminal or civil proceeding conducted in connection with the administration of that program. The disclosure of any information that identifies by name or address any applicant for or recipient of these grants-in-aid to any committee or legislative body is prohibited, except as provided in subdivision (b).
(2) As used in this subdivision, “directly connected with the administration of that program” includes research relating to poverty, measuring poverty and its effects, and efforts to ameliorate poverty.
(b) Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person shall publish or disclose or permit or cause to be published or disclosed any list of persons receiving public social services. Any county welfare department in this state may release lists of applicants for, or recipients of, public social services, to any other county welfare department or the State Department of Social Services, and these lists or any other records shall be released when requested by any county welfare department or the State Department of Social Services. These lists or other records shall only be used for purposes directly connected with the administration of public social services. Except for those purposes, no person shall publish, disclose, or use or permit or cause to be published, disclosed, or used any confidential information pertaining to an applicant or recipient.
(c) Any county welfare department and the State Department of Social Services shall provide any governmental entity that is authorized by law to conduct an audit or similar activity in connection with the administration of public social services, including any committee or legislative body so authorized, with access to any public social service applications and records described in subdivision (a) to the extent of the authorization. Those committees, legislative bodies, and other entities may only request or use these records for the purpose of investigating the administration of public social services, and shall not disclose the identity of any applicant or recipient except in the case of a criminal or civil proceeding conducted in connection with the administration of public social services.
(d) This section shall not prohibit the furnishing of this information to other public agencies to the extent required for verifying eligibility or for other purposes directly connected with the administration of public social services, or to county superintendents of schools or superintendents of school districts only as necessary for the administration of federally assisted programs providing assistance in cash or in-kind or services directly to individuals on the basis of need. Any person knowingly and intentionally violating this subdivision is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(e) In the context of a petition for the appointment of a conservator for a person who is receiving or has received aid from a public agency, as indicated above, or in the context of a criminal prosecution for a violation of Section 368 of the Penal Code both of the following shall apply:
(1) An adult protective services employee or ombudsman may answer truthfully at any proceeding related to the petition or prosecution, when asked if he or she the employee or ombudsman is aware of information that he or she the employee or ombudsman believes is related to the legal mental capacity of that aid recipient or the need for a conservatorship for that aid recipient. If the adult protective services employee or ombudsman states that he or she the employee or ombudsman is aware of such information, the court may order the adult protective services employee or ombudsman to testify about his or her that person’s observations and to disclose all relevant agency records.
(2) The court may order the adult protective services employee or ombudsman to testify about his or her that person’s observations and to disclose any relevant agency records if the court has other independent reason to believe that the adult protective services employee or ombudsman has information that would facilitate the resolution of the matter.
(f) The State Department of Social Services may make rules and regulations governing the custody, use, and preservation of all records, papers, files, and communications pertaining to the administration of the laws relating to public social services under their jurisdiction. The rules and regulations shall be binding on all departments, officials and employees of the state, or of any political subdivision of the state and may provide for giving information to or exchanging information with agencies, public or political subdivisions of the state, and may provide for giving information to or exchanging information with agencies, public or private, that are engaged in planning, providing, or securing social services for or on behalf of recipients or applicants; and for making case records available for research purposes, provided that making these case records available will not result in the disclosure of the identity of applicants for or recipients of public social services and will not disclose any personal information in a manner that would link the information disclosed to the individual to whom it pertains, unless the department has complied with subdivision (t) of Section 1798.24 of the Civil Code.
(g) Any person, including every public officer and employee, who knowingly secures or possesses, other than in the course of official duty, an official list or a list compiled from official sources, published or disclosed in violation of this section, of persons who have applied for or who have been granted any form of public social services for which state or federal funds are made available to the counties is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(h) This section shall not be construed to prohibit an employee of a county welfare department from disclosing confidential information concerning a public social services applicant or recipient to a state or local law enforcement agency investigating or gathering information regarding a criminal act committed in a welfare department office, a criminal act against any county or state welfare worker, or any criminal act witnessed by any county or state welfare worker while involved in the administration of public social services at any location. Further, this section shall not be construed to prohibit an employee of a county welfare department from disclosing confidential information concerning a public social services applicant or recipient to a state or local law enforcement agency investigating or gathering information regarding a criminal act intentionally committed by the applicant or recipient against any off-duty county or state welfare worker in retaliation for an act performed in the course of the welfare worker’s duty when the person committing the offense knows or reasonably should know that the victim is a state or county welfare worker. These criminal acts shall include only those that are in violation of state or local law. Disclosure of confidential information pursuant to this subdivision shall be limited to the applicant’s or recipient’s name, physical description, and address.
(i) The provisions of this section shall be operative only to the extent permitted by federal law and shall not apply to, but exclude, Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 14000) and Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200) of this division, and for which a grant-in-aid is received by this state from the United States government pursuant to Title XIX of the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1396 et seq.).
(j) (1) Public social services, as defined in Section 10051, includes publicly funded health care services administered or supervised by the department or the State Department of Health Care Services, except that, as used in this section, it does not include the Medi-Cal program. This subdivision does not affect or alter the exclusions contained in subdivision (i) or the confidentiality provisions contained in Section 14100.2.
(2) This subdivision clarifies existing law.

SEC. 4.

 Section 14100.2 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

14100.2.
 (a) Except as provided in subdivision (i), all types of information, whether written or oral, concerning a person, made or kept by any public officer or agency in connection with the administration of any provision of this chapter, Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200), or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520) and for which a grant-in-aid is received by this state from the United States government pursuant to Title XIX of the Social Security Act shall be confidential, and shall not be open to examination other than for purposes directly connected with the administration of the Medi-Cal program. However, in the context of a petition for the appointment of a conservator for a person with respect to whom this information is made or kept, and in the context of a criminal prosecution for a violation of Section 368 of Penal Code with respect to such a person, all of the following shall apply:
A public officer or employee of any such agency may answer truthfully, at any proceeding related to the petition or prosecution, when asked if he or she the officer or employee is aware of information that he or she the officer or employee believes is related to the legal mental capacity of that aid recipient or the need for a conservatorship for that aid recipient. If the officer or employee states that he or she the officer or employee is aware of this information, the court may order the officer or employee to testify about his or her that person’s observations and to disclose any relevant agency records if the court has an other independent reason to believe that the officer or employee has information that would facilitate the resolution of the matter.
(b) Except as provided in this section, and to the extent permitted by federal law or regulation, all information about applicants and recipients as provided for in subdivision (a) to be safeguarded includes, but is not limited to, names and addresses, medical services provided, social and economic conditions or circumstances, agency evaluation of personal information, and medical data, including diagnosis and past history of disease or disability.
(c) (1) Purposes directly connected with the administration of the Medi-Cal program, Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200), or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520) encompass those administrative activities and responsibilities in which the department and its agents are required to engage to insure effective program operations. These activities include, but are not limited to: establishing eligibility and methods of reimbursement; determining the amount of medical assistance; providing services for recipients; conducting or assisting an investigation, prosecution, or civil or criminal proceeding related to the administration of the Medi-Cal program; and conducting or assisting a legislative investigation or audit related to the administration of the Medi-Cal program.
(2) Purposes directly connected with the administration of the Medi-Cal program, Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200) or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520) encompass research relating to poverty, measuring poverty and its effects, and efforts to ameliorate poverty.
(d) Any officer, agent, or employee of the department or of any public agency shall provide the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and the State Auditor with any and all the information described in subdivision (b) within a reasonable period of time as determined by the committee in consultation with the department, after receipt of a request from the committee approved by a majority of the members of the committee. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee and the State Auditor may use that information only for the purpose of investigating or auditing the administration of the Medi-Cal program, Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200), or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520), and shall not use that information for commercial or political purposes. In any case where disclosure of information is authorized by this section, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee or the State Auditor shall not disclose the identity of any applicant or recipient, except in the case of a criminal or civil proceeding conducted in connection with the administration of the Medi-Cal program.
(e) The access to information provided in subdivision (d) shall be permitted only to the extent and under the conditions provided by federal law and regulations governing the release of such information.
(f) The department may make rules and regulations governing the custody, use, and preservation of all records, papers, files, and communications pertaining to the administration of the laws relating to the Medi-Cal program, Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200), or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520). The rules and regulations shall be binding on all departments, officials, and employees of the state, or of any political subdivision of the state and may provide for giving information to or exchanging information with agencies, public, or political subdivisions of the state, and may provide for giving information to or exchanging information with agencies, public or private, which are engaged in planning, providing, or securing such services for or in behalf of recipients or applicants; and for making case records available for research purposes, provided that that research will not result in the disclosure of the identity of applicants for or recipients of those services.
(g) Upon request, the department shall release to the negotiator established pursuant to Article 2.6 (commencing with Section 14081) all computer tapes and any modifications thereto, including paid claims, connected with the administration of the Medi-Cal program which are in the possession or under the control of the department, including tapes prepared prior to the effective date of this section.
To ensure compliance with federal law and regulations, the department shall make the minimum necessary modifications to its computer tapes prior to releasing the tapes to the negotiator in order to assure the confidentiality of the identity of all applicants for, or recipients of, those services. The department shall not make any modifications to paid claims tapes that affect information regarding beneficiaries’ aid categories or counties of origin.
(h) Any person who knowingly releases or possesses confidential information concerning persons who have applied for or who have been granted any form of Medi-Cal benefits or benefits under Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200) or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520) for which state or federal funds are made available in violation of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(i) (1) To the extent federal funds are made available from the United States Department of Agriculture, the department may do both of the following:
(A) To the extent permitted by federal law, exercise its option under Section 1396a(a)(7)(B) of Title 42 of the United States Code, in coordination with the State Department of Education, to exchange the information necessary to perform direct verification of the eligibility of children for free or reduced price meals.
(B) To the extent permitted by federal law, in coordination with the State Department of Education, exchange the information necessary to perform direct certification for enrolling children to receive free or reduced price meals.
(2) To the extent permitted by state and federal law, the department and the State Department of Education may review the data only for the purposes of improving the effectiveness of the data matches made pursuant to Sections 49561 and 49562 of the Education Code.