Thursday, October 15, 2009

AB 130 Signed Into Law - California Vital Records Access

I received this email from Liz Stookesbury Myers today:

On the last possible day for the Governor of California to sign bills into law or veto them, October 11, 2009, he signed AB 130 into law. This law becomes effective January 1, 2010.

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/asm/ab_0101-0150/ab_130_bill_20091011_chaptered.pdf

Jan Meisels AllenDirector,
IAJGS andChairperson, Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

The bill is 13 pages long in PDF format. The Legislative Counsel's Digest summary includes:

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AB 130, Jeffries. Vital records: marriage records.

(1) Existing law prescribes specified personal information to be included on birth, death, and marriage certificates. Under existing law, a certified copy of a birth or death record may only be supplied by the State Registrar, local registrar, or county recorder to an authorized person, as defined, who submits a statement sworn under penalty of perjury that the applicant is an authorized person. If an applicant for a birth or death record does not meet the requirements for an authorized person, the State Registrar, local registrar, or county recorder may only issue an informational certified copy of a birth or death record that contains a legend stating “INFORMATIONAL, NOT A VALID DOCUMENT TO ESTABLISH IDENTITY.”

Existing law also requires that each certified copy of a birth or death record contain specified information and be printed on sensitized paper with specified features.

Existing law also requires an applicant for a certified copy of a birth or death record to pay, in addition to other fees applicable to the receipt of a copy of a birth or death record from the State Registrar, local registrar, or county recorder a fee of $1, to be used for the development of safety and security measures to protect against the fraudulent use of these records and defray the cost to local officials of any required security measures.

This bill would also make these provisions applicable to a request for a certified copy of a nonconfidential marriage record, and would make conforming changes. By changing the definition of the crime of perjury, and by imposing new duties on local officials, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.

(2) Existing law permits a county clerk to issue a confidential marriage license if prescribed conditions are met. Under existing law, a confidential marriage license is a confidential record and is not open to public inspection without an order from the court. Existing law requires a county clerk to maintain confidential marriage certificates as permanent records that are not open to public inspection except upon order of the court. Existing law permits a party to a confidential marriage to obtain a certified copy of the confidential marriage certificate, as prescribed.

This bill would repeal the existing methods by which a party to a confidential marriage may obtain a certified copy of his or her confidential marriage certificate and would instead require that the above mentioned provisions relating to obtaining certified copies of birth and death records be applicable to a confidential marriage record, as specified. This bill would specify that an authorized person, for purposes of requests for certified copies of confidential marriage records, includes only a party to the confidential marriage. This bill would also prohibit the release of an informational certified copy of a confidential marriage record, as specified.


By changing the definition of the crime of perjury, and by imposing new duties on local officials, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.

(3) Existing law requires the State Registrar to appoint a Vital Records Protection Advisory Committee to study and make recommendations to protect individual privacy, inhibit identity theft, and prevent fraud involving birth and death certificates while providing needed access to the information contained in those records by persons seeking it for a legitimate purpose.

This bill would add marriage records to the list of vital records under the committee’s consideration for study and recommendations, and would make other technical and conforming changes.

(4) Existing law requires the State Registrar to maintain comprehensive indices of registered certificates. Under existing law, comprehensive birth and death record indices, as prescribed, must be kept confidential and are exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act. Existing law also requires the State Registrar to maintain separate noncomprehensive birth and death record indices for purposes of public release and for law enforcement and fraud prevention. Existing law also prohibits specified uses of birth and death record files. Violation of these provisions is a misdemeanor.

This bill would apply these provisions to both comprehensive and noncomprehensive nonconfidential marriage indices. The bill would require that the noncomprehensive nonconfidential marriage record indices for public release and for law enforcement and fraud prevention be comprised of the name of each party to the marriage and the date of marriage. This bill would prohibit the noncomprehensive nonconfidential marriage record indices for public release from containing the maiden names of the parties mothers. By changing the definition of a crime, and by imposing new duties on local officials, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.

(5) The California Constitution requires a statute that limits the people’s right of access to the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies to be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest.

This bill would declare that in order to protect personal privacy and reduce the risk of identity theft, it is necessary to enact provisions that generally restrict access to, and release of, marriage records.

(6) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

This bill would provide that with regard to certain mandates no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.

With regard to any other mandates, this bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs so mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.

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There is so much in the 13 pages of legalese here. The questions I have for California vital records and legal experts are:

1) Can a person go to the local County Recorder's office and obtain a birth, marriage or death certificate for another person? I think the answer is yes, with some facts like the mother's maiden name, and the Social Security Number on death records, deleted. And if they don't qualify for a certified copy, they can receive the informational copy with the warning “INFORMATIONAL, NOT A VALID DOCUMENT TO ESTABLISH IDENTITY” applied.

2) Can a person obtain via mail (from the California State Government) a birth, marriage or death certificate for another person? Again, I think that the answer is yes, with some facts like the mother's maiden name, and the Social Security Number on death records, deleted. And if they don't qualify for a certified copy, they can receive the informational copy with the warning applied.

3) Will the non-comprehensive birth, marriage and death indexes be available on the Internet? I think that the answer is NO, since Section 3 (b) (8) (B) (page 5 of the text) says:

"(B) Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), individual information contained in birth, death, and nonconfidential marriage record indices may be posted on the Internet if all of the following requirements are met:
(i) The individual information is posted on an Internet Web site that is protected by a password.
(ii) The individual information is posted on an Internet Web site that is available to subscribers only for a fee.
(iii) The individual information is not posted for public display.
(iv) The individual information is available to subscribers pursuant to a contractual agreement.
(v) The individual information is posted for purposes of law enforcement or preventing fraud.

That section says "...if ALL of the following requirements are met." How is an index on Ancestry.com used only for "purposes of law enforcement or for preventing fraud?"

4) Can a person post information from previously or newly obtained birth, marriage and death certificates in a book or periodical, or on the Internet? This is another interesting case - and I don't know the answer. Section 4, (e) (page 7) says that:

(e) (1) Birth, death, and nonconfidential marriage data files, and any portion thereof, obtained pursuant to this section, shall not be used for fraudulent purposes and shall not be posted on the Internet.

(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), individual information contained in death data files obtained pursuant to paragraph (4) of subdivision (a) may be posted on the Internet if all of the following requirements are met:

It lists the same requirements as above.

My literal reading says that a person in possession of a data file (which means, I think, a vital records certificate) cannot publish the birth or marriage information, and can publish the death information only if it satisfies the additional requirements.

5) What about family trees put on web sites? Are subscription sites OK, but not free family tree sites? Even if the people are deceased? Obviously, there are other public records that list vital records dates for persons - like probate records, obituaries and gravestone inscriptions, but someone has to do some research to find them.

I urge all interested parties to read the text of the approved and signed bill. It might be a good idea for people needing California vital records to obtain them before the bill becomes law on 1 January 2010.

Am I being too literal here? I frankly don't know, and will appreciate the legal experts expounding about what it means. Or do we need more legislative action?

1 comment:

genealogygal said...

Randy,
I am really glad you posted this. A society member from NSDCGS filled us in on this issue at the meeting we had last Tuesday. She said that she contacted the California State Genealogical Society and will collaborate with leadership there to see if there are any genealogists that were invited to be a part of the committee who decided and will decide what will not be included in vital records. Apparently the committee was supposed include some members of the public (possibly including a genealogist). If there is not a genealogist on the committee maybe we can get a genealogist on the committee and this will affect future decisions in regard to records access? This is one of the goals of our society member. I will keep in touch with this member by email and let you know what happens.