Two California public record laws: one for the Legislature and one for everyone else

Documents released in February, showing current and former California legislators had been accused of sexual misbehavior and other harassment, weren’t released under the California Public Records Act.

Instead, the Legislature has its own, more restrictive public records law: the Legislative Open Records Act.

The California Public Records Act was signed into law 50 years ago by Gov. Ronald Reagan. The law says, in theory, all government agency records are public except for specific exceptions. But the Legislature was exempt from the law. Seven years later, it passed the Legislative Open Records Act.

“The Legislature carved out a special deal for itself with LORA, and it’s a deal that leaves the public out in the cold,” said David Snyder, executive director of the San Rafael-based First Amendment Coalition. “There’s a lot of things that the Legislature is not required to disclose that every other government agency in California has to disclose.”

Communications between elected officials and staff, such as between school district officials, are public documents under the California Public Records Act. But those communications are just one of the things the Legislature has decided don’t apply in its case. Read more…