Senator Cortese Announces Bill to Boost Transparency of Public Records

State Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) announced legislation today that will bring greater transparency to government communications for journalists and the public. SB 908 mandates the swift transfer of text messages and emails by elected officials and public employees to official channels, making them discoverable upon requests for public records.

The legislation ensures California’s adherence to the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and a pivotal 2017 California Supreme Court ruling. This ruling clarified that a CPRA request obligates public officials and employees to disclose communications conducted on private accounts or devices if they relate to public business.

“I authored this bill because I know we can do better in providing the transparency and integrity in our democracy that our constituents and taxpayers deserve,” said Senator Cortese (D-San Jose). “Our children, grandchildren, and future generations will benefit from our efforts.”

SB 908 will require public employees, including legislators, state and city officials, and rank-and-file public agency workers, to use or copy a public server when discussing public business through text or email on a privately owned device or forward the communication to a public server within 20 days. The CPRA already contains remedies for violations, which can include civil litigation and court-ordered attorney’s fees. The bill is patterned after federal law, which already requires federal employees to either use or copy a government server when conducting public business.

SB 908 follows a 2022 lawsuit against a former San Jose mayor brought by San José Spotlight, co-sponsor of SB 908, and the First Amendment Coalition. The lawsuit highlighted an incident where the mayor directed a resident to contact him on his personal Gmail while deleting their correspondence from his public government account to shield it from disclosure. The mayor conducted extensive public business through his Gmail and by texting on a personal phone, San José Spotlight reported.

A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled that the city of San Jose violated the law by improperly withholding records and that the former mayor did not adequately search for records on his personal phone.

SB 908 is co-sponsored by San José Spotlight and the California News Publishers Association (CNPA). The bill is also supported by the First Amendment Coalition and the California Broadcasters Association.

Senator Dave Cortese represents Senate District 15, which encompasses San Jose and much of Santa Clara County in the heart of Silicon Valley. Visit Senator Cortese’s website: