California Sen. Leland Yee (D- San Mateo) in January will introduce legislation requiring that government agencies respond to requests for public documents with documents in searchable, sortable format, a spokesperson for the senator said today.
Sen. Yee plans to introduce the measure when the Legislature returns to session in January, spokesperson Adam Keigwin said. The legislation will address public access to government records.
When responding to requests for public documents, government agencies often provide online or electronic records in formats that are of little use, Keigwin said. The documents, often thousands of pages long, are provided as scanned graphic image files that do not allow recipients to search or sort the document for key terms of interest.
Sen. Yee’s bill would mandate that such documents be provided in formats typically used by the public agencies themselves and that allow sorting and searching, such as open source files, word processing documents or spreadsheets.
The senator’s office has experienced the frustration caused by receiving a public document of little real use, said Keigwin, who gave the example of requesting correspondence records from the California State University system when former Gov. Sarah Palin was scheduled to speak at CSU Stanislaus in 2010. Sen. Yee received thousands of pages of correspondence that could not be searched for key terms, essentially making the document useless.
The legislation has already received support from agencies that have supported Yee’s open government efforts in the past, Keigwin said. Requests for senate coauthors have also received a positive response.