Governor’s Budget Proposal Jeopardizes School Districts’ Ability to Recoup Mandated Costs for Responding to Public Records Requests Seeking Electronically-Stored Records

The California Public Records Act (CPRA) provides for the disclosure of public records kept by the state, local agencies, school districts and community college districts, and county offices of education. On April 19, 2013, the Commission on State Mandates (Commission) adopted a statement of decision and parameters and guidelines regarding state-mandated reimbursement for certain costs local agencies and K-14 school districts incur from responding to records requests seeking electronic records.

In his 2013-2014 May Revision budget proposal, the Governor recommends suspending the CPRA mandate as to the CPRA provisions governing the disclosure of electronic records by school and community college districts. To assist school and community college districts in implementing numerous state mandates, the Governor has created a block grant as an alternative method of reimbursement to the current reimbursement claim process. Notably, none of the block grant funding, $167 million for K-12 school districts and $33 million for community college districts, is devoted to assisting these districts with fulfilling their obligations under CPRA.

In its May 31, 2013 semiannual report analyzing newly identified state mandates, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) recommended that the Legislature recast current state reimbursable mandates related to disclosure of electronic records as optional best practices. This new paradigm would shift the burden of funding and compliance from the state to local governments. In addition, each year a local government would be required to either: 1) comply with the best practices or 2) announce at its first regularly scheduled public meeting that the local government will not meet the best practices.

The Governor’s proposal would have no impact on obligations to comply with provisions of CPRA enacted in 1968 because such provisions pre-date the mandate law passed in 1975.

Until the Governor’s proposal becomes law, local agencies and K-14 school districts may continue to file claims to recover CPRA state-mandated costs in accordance with the parameters and guidelines set forth in the April 19, 2013 Commission decision. This situation, however, may only be short-lived for two reasons 1) the Governor’s success in convincing school and community college districts to forego claim reimbursement in favor of block grant funding, none of which is devoted to reimbursement for CPRA costs; and 2) the LAO’s recommendation that CPRA state-mandated provisions be re-categorized as optional best practices so as to preclude local agencies from receiving state-mandated reimbursement for certain costs related to compliance with CPRA. We will continue to monitor the volatile budgetary process for any changes that might impact the carefully considered Commission decision discussed herein. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns about recovering CPRA costs to which you are entitled under the current regime, do not hesitate to contact us.

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