RCRC, in coalition with several government and association partners, supports Senate Bill 1034, authored by Senator Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta). This measure would amend the definition of “unusual circumstances” in the Public Records Act (PRA) to include the need to respond to a PRA during a state of emergency. 

The California Public Records Act serves as a vital tool for the public to hold their governments and elected leaders accountable. These requests, however, can be costly and time-consuming for local agencies. Public agencies at all levels of government have reported a significant increase in the quantity and breadth of PRA requests. A variety of public agencies reported a 73% increase in the volume of PRA requests over the past five years. Furthermore, due to the modernization of how public sector work is conducted, there has been a significant increase in disclosable records (e.g., emails, text messages, inter-office direct chat messaging platforms, etc.) created by routine government work. In response, there has been a proportionate increase in the complexity and sophistication of the work necessary to respond to PRA requests due to the staff time spent searching for records and redacting material that is exempt or prohibited from disclosure (e.g., confidential attorney-client correspondence, social security numbers, criminal history, trade secrets, medical records, etc.). The staff resources dedicated to PRA responses are often the same employees deployed to emergency response activities during a disaster.  

SB 1034 will provide some narrow, limited relief to counties when they receive PRA requests during an emergency. While there are other reforms to the PRA that could both improve public access to records and reduce impacts on local agencies, RCRC and our coalition partners applaud this modest, beneficial, albeit narrow, reform of the PRA.

SB 1034 is set to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 2, 2024. For more information, contact RCRC Policy Advocate, Sarah Dukett.