September 30 is the last day for the Governor to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature before September 1. Six bills affecting rights or protections of particular interest to Californians Aware—besides the three recently reported dealing with police transparency—are now on the Governor’s desk.
Attorney Fees for Prevailing Public Records Requester
SB 1244 by Wieckowski (D-Fremont) would end the principal problem posed by “reverse CPRA” (California Public Records Act) lawsuits, in which a request for access to public records is not rejected by the custodian public agency but rather temporarily barred by a court order sought by a third party claiming that the information is confidential. This litigation is typically frivolous on the merits but results in the requester having to go to court to defend its right to the records. When it prevails and gains access to the information it sought, however, it cannot recover its a1orney fees since it was not the “plaintiff” in the litigation. SB 1244 would amend the CPRA to provide that attorney fees in such instances are available to the “requester” rather than to the “plaintiff.”
Sexual Harassment/Discrimination Made Secret by Lawsuit Settlements
SB 820 by Leyva (D-Chino) would prohibit a settlement agreement filed in a civil or administrative action from barring the disclosure of factual information relating to certain claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or harassment or discrimination based on sex.
Guardian ad Litem’s Use of Fictitious Name to File a Lawsuit
AB 2185 by Chiu (D-San Francisco) would authorize a guardian ad litem, upon leave of the court, to use a pseudonym or fictitious name to file a lawsuit and to redact personal identifying information from documents filed with the court.
Tightened Rules for State Advisory Meetings by Teleconference
AB 2958 by Quirk (D-Hayward) would require a member of a state agency’s advisory body with no rulemaking authority participating in a meeting by teleconference to be listed as such in the meeting notice and minutes, and would also require the body to designate a primary physical meeting location where a quorum will attend and where members of the public can physically attend and participate.
Protection for Students, Parents Addressing School Boards
SB 1036 by Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) would prohibit a school or community college district board from releasing educational or contact information of a pupil or of the parent or guardian of a pupil in the minutes of a meeting he or she has provided a written request to the secretary or clerk of the governing body to exclude his or her personal information or the name of his or her minor child.
Freedom to Testify re Alleged Crimes or Sexual Harassment
AB 3109 by Stone (Scotts Valley) would make a provision in a contract or settlement agreement void and unenforceable if it waives a party’s right to testify in an administrative, legislative, or judicial proceeding concerning alleged criminal conduct or sexual harassment.
Photo credit: Rich Pedroncelli/AP