On January 1, a long-awaited reorganization and recodification of the California Public Records Act (CPRA) took effect. The CPRA was enacted to provide transparency and access to public records, and 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.” Therefore, all California special districts are required to comply with the provisions of the CPRA.
Since its enactment in 1968, the CPRA has gone through many revisions and additions to the statutes governing public records. In an attempt to address the unwieldy and sometimes confusing CPRA statutes resulting from the decades of revisions to the law, the Legislature enacted AB 473 (Chau) in 2021. Working with the Law Revision Commission, the Legislature sought to recodify the text in a “clear and organized manner” without making any substantive changes to the law, and sought to accomplish seven objectives:
- Reduce the length and complexity of current sections.
- Avoid unnecessary cross-references.
- Neither expand nor contract the scope of existing exemptions to the general rule that records are open to the public pursuant to the current provisions of the CPRA.
- To the extent compatible with (3), use terms with common definitions.
- Organize the existing provisions in such a way that similar provisions are located in close proximity to one another.
- Eliminate duplicative provisions.
- Clearly express legislative intent without any change in the substantive provisions.
AB 473 unanimously passed the Legislature in 2021 and was signed by the Governor, although it delayed the effect of the text change until January 1, 2023. Accordingly, the CPRA – which previously started in the California Government Code at section 6250, is now beginning at Government Code section 7920.000. Special districts that have standard language in documents used for CPRA requests and responses, and which reference CPRA code sections, may need to update those documents to reflect the recodified CPRA sections. In addition, districts will need to be mindful of the recodification when citing the statutes in any response to a CPRA request. The California Law Revision Commission has created a “disposition table,” intended to help translate the old code sections into the new code sections.
For questions regarding this change to the CPRA, contact CSDA Deputy General Counsel Mustafa Hessabi at email@example.com.