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Fong wants oversight for state agenies and PRA requests

Staff Writer
Taft Midway Driller
Vince Fong

Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Kern County) introduced AB 343 to create a Public Records Act (PRA) Ombudsperson to referee state agencies as they review PRA requests.

“State agencies should not be able to freely deny public records requests and rob the public of information crucial to holding their government accountable,” said Fong. “This has become increasingly clear as the Employment Development Department cannot explain how they are failing Californians every day with their dysfunction and the Governor’s administration continues to hide the COVID data they are using to make shutdown and re-opening decisions.”

 California’s state agencies have built a troubling track record of sidestepping PRA requests by citing exemptions that are inappropriate and irrelevant to the nature of the request, Fong alleged.

AB 343 addresses this by establishing an independent, non-partisan ombudsperson who can review a denied PRA request and serve as a referee on whether the state agency has legitimate grounds for denying the request. Currently, if a PRA request is denied, the public has no recourse other than to file a lawsuit.

"The PRA was intended to give the public greater access to the government to enhance transparency and accountability," Fong said. 

The bill will be referred to the Assembly rules committee where it will be referred to a policy committee for hearing in the coming months.