A&A: Did Prop. 42 eliminate fees for public records?

Q: I’m trying to find out whether Prop 42 now requires local agencies to provide free access to public records or whether they are still allowed to charge for copies. Thank you,

A: I do not read Prop. 42 as prohibiting public agencies from charging a reasonable fee to cover the direct cost of duplication of a public records, as permitted under Gov’t Code § 6253(b).  Please note that the Public Records Act has never permitted an agency to charge a member of the public to simply inspect public records, nor does it permit an agency to charge for time spent searching for and retrieving those records.

It is only when the member of the public wants a copy of a record that a fee may be charged to cover copying costs. I believe the fiscal impact of Prop. 42 is that it eliminates any reimbursement from the state to local agencies for compliance with the Public Records Act, but strengthens the mandate requiring local governments to comply with the Act.

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