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New state law allows access to records in electronic format

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Freedom of Information         Jan 11, 2001    

New state law allows access to records in electronic format

  • Legislation that took effect on Jan. 1 also requires written justification of denials of written records requests.

State agencies must provide records in an electronic format to members of the public who request electronic records if the agency has previously produced copies in the same format for other agencies or its own use under a law effective Jan. 1.

The new law requires an agency to compile, program or extract records in order to respond to a records request. If complying with the statute creates extra work for the agency, the requestor is required to pay for the “cost of programming and computer services necessary to produce the copy of the record.”

Gov. Gray Davis signed the bill into law in September. He had vetoed similar legislation in 1999.

Other provision in the new legislation include an explicit prohibition on agencies from using provisions of the public records act to “obstruct the inspection or copying of public records,” and a requirement of a written justification from an agency when it denies access following a written request. Under this section, the agency must demonstrate that it has statutory authority to close access to the record or that the “public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.”

(Cal. Gov’t Code 6253, 6253.9 and 6255 as amended by Stats 2000 ch 982) CC

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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