California has public records laws of mixed quality.
But even when citizens are seeking public documents and do have the law on their side, they often don't get them.
The governments who house the records can delay or use lawyers to make it too costly and time-consuming for citizens to get the records they need to hold people accountable. In many cases, governments deny requests for records that really are public.
If you're one of those people, there's now a little bit of free help for you.
The California First Amendment Coalition has a hotline -- which you can use free -- to answer questions you have about "freedom-of-information, open-meeting laws, First Amendment protections for journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens, and other open-government issues."
A link to the hotline is here. (The coalition cautions that the lawyers who answer your questions won't answer legal questions on other issues or provide legal representation).
We don't do endorsements of products at Prop Zero. But this is a free service, run by a non-profit and funded by foundations.
It's also one I've used myself when I'm battling public officials over access to records.
It can give you a little bit of extra help, and clarity, when you're trying to get your state or local government to tell you what they've been doing in your name.