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Effective January 1, 2023, the California Public Records Act (CPRA) has a new location within the Government Code, complete with relabeled organizational headings that improve navigating the statute. The Legislature initially enacted the CPRA in 1968, and despite amendments over the past 50 years, the CPRA has become somewhat of a tangled web of statutory provisions, forcing practitioners and the public alike to follow the bouncing ball of references to understand its requirements, exceptions, exemptions, qualifications, and caveats. Through the CPRA Recodification Act of 2021 (Act), the Legislature makes the CPRA more user friendly. Importantly, all changes to the law under the Act are non-substantive. Indeed, the non-substantive nature of the changes is an express intent of both the bill proposing the reorganization and recodification of the CPRA, as well as a stated purpose of the Act itself. With these housekeeping changes taking effect as of the new year, it is a perfect time to review your agency’s forms, policies, and websites to update CPRA section references.
Practitioners and the public will now see systematic and thoughtful labeling of the parts, chapters, articles, and sections comprising the CPRA. Readers will also discover less lengthy and complex sections, related/similar sections existing in closer proximity to one another, and less duplication throughout the code provisions. For example, gone are sections requiring four character-long subdivision citations (e.g., 6254(f)(4)(B)(ii)(I)); instead, the former massive section regarding the array of records exempt from disclosure (former Government Code section 6254) is now divided across multiple separate sections organized by type of record, such as library records, public entity spending and finance, and many others. In addition, the Act’s reorganization and relabeling left room for future expansion of, and changes to, the CPRA, such that the value of this structural overhaul can continue for years to come.
The organizational refresh provided by the Act is years in the making. Assemblyperson Chau, former representative for District 49 located east of Los Angeles, introduced Assembly Bill 473 (AB 473) on February 8, 2021, proposing restatements to the provisions of the CPRA based on the California Law Revision Commission’s (Commission) recommendations.
Between 2016 and 2019, the Commission analyzed the CPRA with an eye towards developing non-substantive changes that will improve the CPRA’s readability, organization, and understandability.
The Commission’s recommended changes (and AB 473) seek to serve the principle upon which the CPRA is premised—the people’s access to “information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right.”
The Act repealed the CPRA provisions formerly existing in Government Code Division 7, titled, “Miscellaneous,” and recodified them in a new division: Division 10, titled, “Access to Public Records.” The CPRA code sections formerly codified in Government Code sections 6250 through 6276.48 are now found in Government Code sections 7920.000 through 7930.215.
Click here to see the Commission’s 2019 disposition table providing the cross-references between the former CPRA statutory sections and the new, reorganized sections. This table can guide public agencies and the public as we all get acquainted with the restated, reorganized CPRA.
While the Act’s changes are non-substantive, the Act includes disclaimers about pre-existing opinions interpreting provisions of the former CPRA provisions. Specifically, judicial decisions and opinions of the Attorney General interpreting the former CPRA provisions are “relevant” to interpreting the provisions of the CPRA as they exist under the Act (i.e., in their recodified state), but the Legislature did not evaluate the correctness or the merits of such decisions and opinions. These disclaiming provisions raise the question of whether authority interpreting a former CPRA provision will inure to the provision’s recodified form. Considering that the changes under the Act are organizational only, this risk appears low. However, where such judicial and Attorney General opinions turn on certain principles of statutory interpretation, such as where a section exists in relation to others within the same law, previous authority may change.
If you have questions regarding the CPRA and how your agency can process and respond to requests, or comply with requirements, please contact:
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