California invoices with public access disclaimers
Have you ever read a bill and found a clause at the end of the bill dealing with the right of public access limited by the bill? Here is an example from a bill recently introduced in the California Legislature:
SECOND. 5. The legislator notes and declares that article 1 of this law, which modifies articles 12651 of the government code, brings a limitation to the right of access of the public to the meetings of public bodies or to the writings of public officials and bodies within the meaning of Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution. Pursuant to this constitutional provision, the Legislature makes the following findings to demonstrate the interest protected by this limitation and the need to protect that interest: Sensitive California taxpayer information must be adequately protected from disclosure during the valuation process and tax collection to protect privacy and increase compliance.
Why does this language have to appear in an invoice section? We must turn to the State Constitution in Article I (“Bill of Rights”), Section 3. This section of the California Constitution states that “the people have the right to instruct their representatives, to demand the government to redress grievances and to come together and consult freely for the common good.
Further, it states that “the people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the affairs of the people and therefore the meetings of public bodies and the writings of officials and public agencies shall be open to scrutiny public”.
Section 3 also clarifies that any law, court order or other authority, including those in effect on the effective date of this subsection, shall be construed broadly if it favors the people’s right of access, and restrictively if it limits the right of access.
In addition, “a law, court order or other authority adopted after the date of entry into force of this subsection which limits the right of access must be adopted with conclusions demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need to protect that interest”. This second sentence is essential.
This provision of the section requires that a law (which is obviously enacted by a bill passed by the Legislative Assembly and signed into law by the Governor) that limits the right of public access must be passed with legislative findings that clearly indicate what interest is being protected by limiting public access and justifying the need to protect the public interest.
Section 3 also contains other terms, such as this provision of the law does not supersede or alter any constitutional provision, including guarantees that a person shall not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process, or be denied equal protection of the laws.
In addition, Section 3 includes a provision that nothing in this provision of law abrogates or negates, expressly or by implication, any constitutional or statutory exception to the right of access to public records or meetings of public bodies. that is in effect on the effective date of this subdivision, including, but not limited to, any law protecting the confidentiality of law enforcement and prosecution records.
Finally, Section 3 requires each local agency to comply with the California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Returning to the original question posed in this article, similar to the findings required in emergency clause and special statute bills, the legislature must adopt a finding that justifies proposed legislative language that limits public access to meetings or public writings.