Home California Gavin Newsom Signs Executive Order to Continue Remote Local Governmental Meetings Until 2024

Gavin Newsom Signs Executive Order to Continue Remote Local Governmental Meetings Until 2024

by ECT

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that waves the application of AB 361 until October 1 which establishes requirements for public agencies to meet remotely during COVID-19.

Since the pandemic, local governments have been utilizing teleconferencing to hold meetings which allow for both phone calls and email comments to ensure public participation—however, few public entities have allowed in person public participation. The teleconferencing has also allowed public officials to avoid many Brown Act provisions.

Under the executive order, if a local government wants to hold remote meetings, they have to follow AB 361

The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here.

 

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

Executive Order No. N-29-20 suspends the Ralph M. Brown Act’s requirements for teleconferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic provided that notice and accessibility requirements are met, the public members are allowed to observe and address the legislative body at the meeting, and that a legislative body of a local agency has a procedure for receiving and swiftly resolving requests for reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities, as specified.
This bill, until January 1, 2024, would authorize a local agency to use teleconferencing without complying with the teleconferencing requirements imposed by the Ralph M. Brown Act when a legislative body of a local agency holds a meeting during a declared state of emergency, as that term is defined, when state or local health officials have imposed or recommended measures to promote social distancing, during a proclaimed state of emergency held for the purpose of determining, by majority vote, whether meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees, and during a proclaimed state of emergency when the legislative body has determined that meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees, as provided.
This bill would require legislative bodies that hold teleconferenced meetings under these abbreviated teleconferencing procedures to give notice of the meeting and post agendas, as described, to allow members of the public to access the meeting and address the legislative body, to give notice of the means by which members of the public may access the meeting and offer public comment, including an opportunity for all persons to attend via a call-in option or an internet-based service option, and to conduct the meeting in a manner that protects the statutory and constitutional rights of the parties and the public appearing before the legislative body. The bill would require the legislative body to take no further action on agenda items when there is a disruption which prevents the public agency from broadcasting the meeting, or in the event of a disruption within the local agency’s control which prevents members of the public from offering public comments, until public access is restored. The bill would specify that actions taken during the disruption are subject to challenge proceedings, as specified.
This bill would prohibit the legislative body from requiring public comments to be submitted in advance of the meeting and would specify that the legislative body must provide an opportunity for the public to address the legislative body and offer comment in real time. The bill would prohibit the legislative body from closing the public comment period and the opportunity to register to provide public comment, until the public comment period has elapsed or until a reasonable amount of time has elapsed, as specified. When there is a continuing state of emergency, or when state or local officials have imposed or recommended measures to promote social distancing, the bill would require a legislative body to make specified findings not later than 30 days after the first teleconferenced meeting pursuant to these provisions, and to make those findings every 30 days thereafter, in order to continue to meet under these abbreviated teleconferencing procedures.
Existing law prohibits a legislative body from requiring, as a condition to attend a meeting, a person to register the person’s name, or to provide other information, or to fulfill any condition precedent to the person’s attendance.
This bill would exclude from that prohibition, a registration requirement imposed by a third-party internet website or other online platform not under the control of the legislative body.
(2) Existing law, the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, requires, with specified exceptions, that all meetings of a state body be open and public and all persons be permitted to attend any meeting of a state body. The act requires at least one member of the state body to be physically present at the location specified in the notice of the meeting.
The Governor’s Executive Order No. N-29-20 suspends the requirements of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act for teleconferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, provided that notice and accessibility requirements are met, the public members are allowed to observe and address the state body at the meeting, and that a state body has a procedure for receiving and swiftly resolving requests for reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities, as specified.
This bill, until January 31, 2022, would authorize, subject to specified notice and accessibility requirements, a state body to hold public meetings through teleconferencing and to make public meetings accessible telephonically, or otherwise electronically, to all members of the public seeking to observe and to address the state body. With respect to a state body holding a public meeting pursuant to these provisions, the bill would suspend certain requirements of existing law, including the requirements that each teleconference location be accessible to the public and that members of the public be able to address the state body at each teleconference location. Under the bill, a state body that holds a meeting through teleconferencing and allows members of the public to observe and address the meeting telephonically or otherwise electronically would satisfy any requirement that the state body allow members of the public to attend the meeting and offer public comment. The bill would require that each state body that holds a meeting through teleconferencing provide notice of the meeting, and post the agenda, as provided. The bill would urge state bodies utilizing these teleconferencing procedures in the bill to use sound discretion and to make reasonable efforts to adhere as closely as reasonably possible to existing law, as provided.
(3) Existing law establishes the various campuses of the California State University under the administration of the Trustees of the California State University, and authorizes the establishment of student body organizations in connection with the operations of California State University campuses.
The Gloria Romero Open Meetings Act of 2000 generally requires a legislative body, as defined, of a student body organization to conduct its business in a meeting that is open and public. The act authorizes the legislative body to use teleconferencing, as defined, for the benefit of the public and the legislative body in connection with any meeting or proceeding authorized by law.
This bill, until January 31, 2022, would authorize, subject to specified notice and accessibility requirements, a legislative body, as defined for purposes of the act, to hold public meetings through teleconferencing and to make public meetings accessible telephonically, or otherwise electronically, to all members of the public seeking to observe and to address the legislative body. With respect to a legislative body holding a public meeting pursuant to these provisions, the bill would suspend certain requirements of existing law, including the requirements that each teleconference location be accessible to the public and that members of the public be able to address the legislative body at each teleconference location. Under the bill, a legislative body that holds a meeting through teleconferencing and allows members of the public to observe and address the meeting telephonically or otherwise electronically would satisfy any requirement that the legislative body allow members of the public to attend the meeting and offer public comment. The bill would require that each legislative body that holds a meeting through teleconferencing provide notice of the meeting, and post the agenda, as provided. The bill would urge legislative bodies utilizing these teleconferencing procedures in the bill to use sound discretion and to make reasonable efforts to adhere as closely as reasonably possible to existing law, as provided.
(4) This bill would declare the Legislature’s intent, consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order No. N-29-20, to improve and enhance public access to state and local agency meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergencies by allowing broader access through teleconferencing options.
(5) This bill would incorporate additional changes to Section 54953 of the Government Code proposed by AB 339 to be operative only if this bill and AB 339 are enacted and this bill is enacted last.
(6) The California Constitution requires local agencies, for the purpose of ensuring public access to the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies, to comply with a statutory enactment that amends or enacts laws relating to public records or open meetings and contains findings demonstrating that the enactment furthers the constitutional requirements relating to this purpose.
This bill would make legislative findings to that effect.
(7) Existing constitutional provisions require that a statute that limits the right of access to the meetings of public bodies or the writings of public officials and agencies be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest.
This bill would make legislative findings to that effect.
(8) This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.

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