Members of the public can examine California legislative records based upon the provisions of the Legislative Open Records Act (“LORA”). Found in California’s Government Code, LORA was enacted in 1975 in order to allow public access to legislative records. LORA also limits the public’s right to access, inspect and copy these records. Pursuant to LORA, requests by members of the public must be made in writing and be submitted to either the Senate Committee on Rules or the Assembly Rules Committee depending upon the location of the documents being requested. The Joint Committee on Rules is charged with the custody of records in the joint custody of the Assembly and the Senate.
LORA provides the laws for review, reproduction and access to legislative records with specified restrictions. Generally, the Rules Committees respond within three to ten days upon receiving written request for legislative records. If a request is denied, the individual requesting the information is entitled to a written explanation. Generally, the records may not be removed from the office that is designated for records inspection and must be inspected in the presence of a designated staff member from the Legislature. The public can request copies of records and are charged a nominal amount for the photocopying.
The following categories of legislative records are exempt from mandatory public inspection pursuant to California Government Code §§ 9072 and 9075:
- records prepared before December 2nd, 1974;
- records pertaining to certain claims against the Legislature until they’re finally adjudicated or settled;
- records pertaining to litigation to which the Legislature is a party until such litigation has been finally adjudicated or settled;
- personnel files, medical files, and similar files pertaining to the privacy of individuals; and
- preliminary drafts, notes, or memoranda among members and staff other than committee staff analyses directed to all committee members.