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AB-339 Local government: open and public meetings.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 09/13/2021 09:00 PM
AB339:v92#DOCUMENT

Enrolled  September 13, 2021
Passed  IN  Senate  September 09, 2021
Passed  IN  Assembly  September 09, 2021
Amended  IN  Senate  September 03, 2021
Amended  IN  Senate  August 25, 2021
Amended  IN  Senate  July 05, 2021
Amended  IN  Senate  June 25, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  May 04, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  April 15, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 339


Introduced by Assembly Members Lee and Cristina Garcia
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Arambula, Cooley, Kiley, and Robert Rivas)
(Coauthor: Senator Stern)

January 28, 2021


An act to amend Section 54953 of, and to add and repeal Section 54953.9 of, the Government Code, relating to public meetings.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 339, Lee. Local government: open and public meetings.
Existing law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, requires, with specified exceptions, that all meetings of a legislative body of a local agency, as those terms are defined, be open and public and that all persons be permitted to attend and participate. Under existing law, a member of the legislative body who attends a meeting where action is taken in violation of this provision, with the intent to deprive the public of information that the member knows the public is entitled to, is guilty of a crime.
This bill would require local agencies to conduct meetings subject to the act consistent with applicable state and federal civil rights laws, as specified.
This bill would, until December 31, 2023, require all open and public meetings of a city council or a county board of supervisors that governs a jurisdiction containing least 250,000 people to include an opportunity for members of the public to attend via a two-way telephonic option or a two-way internet-based service option, as specified, and would require a city council or county board of supervisors that has, as of June 15, 2021, provided video streaming, as defined, of at least one of its meetings to continue to provide that video streaming. The bill would require all open and public meetings to include an in-person public comment opportunity, except in specified circumstances during a declared state or local emergency. The bill would require all meetings to provide the public with an opportunity to comment on proposed legislation in person and remotely via a telephonic or an internet-based service option, as provided.
By imposing new duties on local governments and expanding the application of a crime with respect to meetings, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
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 no reimbursement is required by this act for specified reasons.
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.
The bill would include findings that changes proposed by this bill address a matter of statewide concern rather than a municipal affair and, therefore, apply to all cities and counties, including charter cities and counties.
This bill would incorporate additional changes to Section 54953 of the Government Code proposed by AB 361 to be operative only if this bill and AB 361 are enacted and this bill is enacted last.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 54953 of the Government Code is amended to read:

54953.
 (a) All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency in person, except as otherwise provided in this chapter. Local agencies shall conduct meetings subject to this chapter consistent with applicable state and federal civil rights laws, including, but not limited to, any applicable language access and other nondiscrimination obligations.
(b) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the legislative body of a local agency may use teleconferencing for the benefit of the public and the legislative body of a local agency in connection with any meeting or proceeding authorized by law. The teleconferenced meeting or proceeding shall comply with all requirements of this chapter and all otherwise applicable provisions of law relating to a specific type of meeting or proceeding.
(2) Teleconferencing, as authorized by this section, may be used for all purposes in connection with any meeting within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body. All votes taken during a teleconferenced meeting shall be by rollcall.
(3) If the legislative body of a local agency elects to use teleconferencing, it shall post agendas at all teleconference locations and conduct teleconference meetings in a manner that protects the statutory and constitutional rights of the parties or the public appearing before the legislative body of a local agency. Each teleconference location shall be identified in the notice and agenda of the meeting or proceeding, and each teleconference location shall be accessible to the public. During the teleconference, at least a quorum of the members of the legislative body shall participate from locations within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction, except as provided in subdivision (d). The agenda shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body directly pursuant to Section 54954.3 at each teleconference location.
(4) For the purposes of this section, “teleconference” means a meeting of a legislative body, the members of which are in different locations, connected by electronic means, through either audio or video, or both. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a local agency from providing the public with additional teleconference locations.
(c) (1) No legislative body shall take action by secret ballot, whether preliminary or final.
(2) The legislative body of a local agency shall publicly report any action taken and the vote or abstention on that action of each member present for the action.
(3) Prior to taking final action, the legislative body shall orally report a summary of a recommendation for a final action on the salaries, salary schedules, or compensation paid in the form of fringe benefits of a local agency executive, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 3511.1, during the open meeting in which the final action is to be taken. This paragraph shall not affect the public’s right under the California Public Records Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title 1) to inspect or copy records created or received in the process of developing the recommendation.
(d) (1) Notwithstanding the provisions relating to a quorum in paragraph (3) of subdivision (b), if a health authority conducts a teleconference meeting, members who are outside the jurisdiction of the authority may be counted toward the establishment of a quorum when participating in the teleconference if at least 50 percent of the number of members that would establish a quorum are present within the boundaries of the territory over which the authority exercises jurisdiction, and the health authority provides a teleconference number, and associated access codes, if any, that allows any person to call in to participate in the meeting and the number and access codes are identified in the notice and agenda of the meeting.
(2) Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed as discouraging health authority members from regularly meeting at a common physical site within the jurisdiction of the authority or from using teleconference locations within or near the jurisdiction of the authority. A teleconference meeting for which a quorum is established pursuant to this subdivision shall be subject to all other requirements of this section.
(3) For purposes of this subdivision, a health authority means any entity created pursuant to Sections 14018.7, 14087.31, 14087.35, 14087.36, 14087.38, and 14087.9605 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, any joint powers authority created pursuant to Article 1 (commencing with Section 6500) of Chapter 5 of Division 7 for the purpose of contracting pursuant to Section 14087.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and any advisory committee to a county-sponsored health plan licensed pursuant to Chapter 2.2 (commencing with Section 1340) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code if the advisory committee has 12 or more members.

SEC. 1.1.

 Section 54953 of the Government Code is amended to read:

54953.
 (a) All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency in person, except as otherwise provided in this chapter. Local agencies shall conduct meetings subject to this chapter consistent with applicable state and federal civil rights laws, including, but not limited to, any applicable language access and other nondiscrimination obligations.
(b) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the legislative body of a local agency may use teleconferencing for the benefit of the public and the legislative body of a local agency in connection with any meeting or proceeding authorized by law. The teleconferenced meeting or proceeding shall comply with all otherwise applicable requirements of this chapter and all otherwise applicable provisions of law relating to a specific type of meeting or proceeding.
(2) Teleconferencing, as authorized by this section, may be used for all purposes in connection with any meeting within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body. All votes taken during a teleconferenced meeting shall be by rollcall.
(3) If the legislative body of a local agency elects to use teleconferencing, it shall post agendas at all teleconference locations and conduct teleconference meetings in a manner that protects the statutory and constitutional rights of the parties or the public appearing before the legislative body of a local agency. Each teleconference location shall be identified in the notice and agenda of the meeting or proceeding, and each teleconference location shall be accessible to the public. During the teleconference, at least a quorum of the members of the legislative body shall participate from locations within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction, except as provided in subdivisions (d) and (e). The agenda shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body directly pursuant to Section 54954.3 at each teleconference location.
(4) For the purposes of this section, “teleconference” means a meeting of a legislative body, the members of which are in different locations, connected by electronic means, through either audio or video, or both. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a local agency from providing the public with additional teleconference locations.
(c) (1) No legislative body shall take action by secret ballot, whether preliminary or final.
(2) The legislative body of a local agency shall publicly report any action taken and the vote or abstention on that action of each member present for the action.
(3) Prior to taking final action, the legislative body shall orally report a summary of a recommendation for a final action on the salaries, salary schedules, or compensation paid in the form of fringe benefits of a local agency executive, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 3511.1, during the open meeting in which the final action is to be taken. This paragraph shall not affect the public’s right under the California Public Records Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title 1) to inspect or copy records created or received in the process of developing the recommendation.
(d) (1) Notwithstanding the provisions relating to a quorum in paragraph (3) of subdivision (b), if a health authority conducts a teleconference meeting, members who are outside the jurisdiction of the authority may be counted toward the establishment of a quorum when participating in the teleconference if at least 50 percent of the number of members that would establish a quorum are present within the boundaries of the territory over which the authority exercises jurisdiction, and the health authority provides a teleconference number, and associated access codes, if any, that allows any person to call in to participate in the meeting and the number and access codes are identified in the notice and agenda of the meeting.
(2) Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed as discouraging health authority members from regularly meeting at a common physical site within the jurisdiction of the authority or from using teleconference locations within or near the jurisdiction of the authority. A teleconference meeting for which a quorum is established pursuant to this subdivision shall be subject to all other requirements of this section.
(3) For purposes of this subdivision, a health authority means any entity created pursuant to Sections 14018.7, 14087.31, 14087.35, 14087.36, 14087.38, and 14087.9605 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, any joint powers authority created pursuant to Article 1 (commencing with Section 6500) of Chapter 5 of Division 7 for the purpose of contracting pursuant to Section 14087.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and any advisory committee to a county-sponsored health plan licensed pursuant to Chapter 2.2 (commencing with Section 1340) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code if the advisory committee has 12 or more members.
(e) (1) A local agency may use teleconferencing without complying with the requirements of paragraph (3) of subdivision (b) if the legislative body complies with the requirements of paragraph (2) of this subdivision in any of the following circumstances:
(A) The legislative body holds a meeting during a proclaimed state of emergency, and state or local officials have imposed or recommended measures to promote social distancing.
(B) The legislative body holds a meeting during a proclaimed state of emergency for the purpose of determining, by majority vote, whether as a result of the emergency, meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees.
(C) The legislative body holds a meeting during a proclaimed state of emergency and has determined, by majority vote, pursuant to subparagraph (B) that, as a result of the emergency, meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees.
(2) A legislative body that holds a meeting pursuant to this subdivision shall do all of the following:
(A) The legislative body shall give notice of the meeting and post agendas as otherwise required by this chapter.
(B) The legislative body shall allow members of the public to access the meeting and the agenda shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body directly pursuant to Section 54954.3. In each instance in which notice of the time of the teleconferenced meeting is otherwise given or the agenda for the meeting is otherwise posted, the legislative body shall also give notice of the means by which members of the public may access the meeting and offer public comment. The agenda shall identify and include an opportunity for all persons to attend via a call-in option or an internet-based service option. This subparagraph shall not be construed to require the legislative body to provide a physical location from which the public may attend or comment.
(C) The legislative body shall conduct teleconference meetings in a manner that protects the statutory and constitutional rights of the parties and the public appearing before the legislative body of a local agency.
(D) In the event of a disruption which prevents the public agency from broadcasting the meeting to members of the public using the call-in option or internet-based service option, or in the event of a disruption within the local agency’s control which prevents members of the public from offering public comments using the call-in option or internet-based service option, the body shall take no further action on items appearing on the meeting agenda until public access to the meeting via the call-in option or internet-based service option is restored. Actions taken on agenda items during a disruption which prevents the public agency from broadcasting the meeting may be challenged pursuant to Section 54960.1.
(E) The legislative body shall not require public comments to be submitted in advance of the meeting and must provide an opportunity for the public to address the legislative body and offer comment in real time. This subparagraph shall not be construed to require the legislative body to provide a physical location from which the public may attend or comment.
(F) Notwithstanding Section 54953.3, an individual desiring to provide public comment through the use of an internet website, or other online platform, not under the control of the local legislative body, that requires registration to log in to a teleconference may be required to register as required by the third-party internet website or online platform to participate.
(G) (i) A legislative body that provides a timed public comment period for each agenda item shall not close the public comment period for the agenda item, or the opportunity to register, pursuant to subparagraph (F), to provide public comment until that timed public comment period has elapsed.
(ii) A legislative body that does not provide a timed public comment period, but takes public comment separately on each agenda item, shall allow a reasonable amount of time per agenda item to allow public members the opportunity to provide public comment, including time for members of the public to register pursuant to subparagraph (F), or otherwise be recognized for the purpose of providing public comment.
(iii) A legislative body that provides a timed general public comment period that does not correspond to a specific agenda item shall not close the public comment period or the opportunity to register, pursuant to subparagraph (F), until the timed general public comment period has elapsed.
(3) If a state of emergency remains active, or state or local officials have imposed or recommended measures to promote social distancing, in order to continue to teleconference without compliance with paragraph (3) of subdivision (b), the legislative body shall, not later than 30 days after teleconferencing for the first time pursuant to subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1), and every 30 days thereafter, make the following findings by majority vote:
(A) The legislative body has reconsidered the circumstances of the state of emergency.
(B) Any of the following circumstances exist:
(i) The state of emergency continues to directly impact the ability of the members to meet safely in person.
(ii) State or local officials continue to impose or recommend measures to promote social distancing.
(4) For the purposes of this subdivision, “state of emergency” means a state of emergency proclaimed pursuant to Section 8625 of the California Emergency Services Act (Article 1 (commencing with Section 8550) of Chapter 7 of Division 1 of Title 2).
(f) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2024, and as of that date is repealed.

SEC. 1.2.

 Section 54953 is added to the Government Code, to read:

54953.
 (a) All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency in person, except as otherwise provided in this chapter. Local agencies shall conduct meetings subject to this chapter consistent with applicable state and federal civil rights laws, including, but not limited to, any applicable language access and other nondiscrimination obligations.
(b) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the legislative body of a local agency may use teleconferencing for the benefit of the public and the legislative body of a local agency in connection with any meeting or proceeding authorized by law. The teleconferenced meeting or proceeding shall comply with all requirements of this chapter and all otherwise applicable provisions of law relating to a specific type of meeting or proceeding.
(2) Teleconferencing, as authorized by this section, may be used for all purposes in connection with any meeting within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body. All votes taken during a teleconferenced meeting shall be by rollcall.
(3) If the legislative body of a local agency elects to use teleconferencing, it shall post agendas at all teleconference locations and conduct teleconference meetings in a manner that protects the statutory and constitutional rights of the parties or the public appearing before the legislative body of a local agency. Each teleconference location shall be identified in the notice and agenda of the meeting or proceeding, and each teleconference location shall be accessible to the public. During the teleconference, at least a quorum of the members of the legislative body shall participate from locations within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction, except as provided in subdivision (d). The agenda shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body directly pursuant to Section 54954.3 at each teleconference location.
(4) For the purposes of this section, “teleconference” means a meeting of a legislative body, the members of which are in different locations, connected by electronic means, through either audio or video, or both. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a local agency from providing the public with additional teleconference locations.
(c) (1) No legislative body shall take action by secret ballot, whether preliminary or final.
(2) The legislative body of a local agency shall publicly report any action taken and the vote or abstention on that action of each member present for the action.
(3) Prior to taking final action, the legislative body shall orally report a summary of a recommendation for a final action on the salaries, salary schedules, or compensation paid in the form of fringe benefits of a local agency executive, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 3511.1, during the open meeting in which the final action is to be taken. This paragraph shall not affect the public’s right under the California Public Records Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title 1) to inspect or copy records created or received in the process of developing the recommendation.
(d) (1) Notwithstanding the provisions relating to a quorum in paragraph (3) of subdivision (b), if a health authority conducts a teleconference meeting, members who are outside the jurisdiction of the authority may be counted toward the establishment of a quorum when participating in the teleconference if at least 50 percent of the number of members that would establish a quorum are present within the boundaries of the territory over which the authority exercises jurisdiction, and the health authority provides a teleconference number, and associated access codes, if any, that allows any person to call in to participate in the meeting and the number and access codes are identified in the notice and agenda of the meeting.
(2) Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed as discouraging health authority members from regularly meeting at a common physical site within the jurisdiction of the authority or from using teleconference locations within or near the jurisdiction of the authority. A teleconference meeting for which a quorum is established pursuant to this subdivision shall be subject to all other requirements of this section.
(3) For purposes of this subdivision, a health authority means any entity created pursuant to Sections 14018.7, 14087.31, 14087.35, 14087.36, 14087.38, and 14087.9605 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, any joint powers authority created pursuant to Article 1 (commencing with Section 6500) of Chapter 5 of Division 7 for the purpose of contracting pursuant to Section 14087.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and any advisory committee to a county-sponsored health plan licensed pursuant to Chapter 2.2 (commencing with Section 1340) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code if the advisory committee has 12 or more members.
(e) This section shall become operative January 1, 2024.

SEC. 2.

 Section 54953.9 is added to the Government Code, to read:

54953.9.
 (a) A city council or a county board of supervisors that governs a jurisdiction containing at least 250,000 people shall comply with the following requirements:
(1) (A) All open and public meetings shall include an opportunity for members of the public to attend via a two-way telephonic option or a two-way internet-based service option.
(B) If a city council or a county board of supervisors elects to provide a two-way internet-based service option, the local agency shall publicly post and provide a call-in option, and activate any automatic captioning function during the meeting if an automatic captioning function is included with the system.
(2) (A) If a city council or county board of supervisors has, as of June 15, 2021, provided video streaming of at least one open and public meeting, the city council or county board of supervisors shall continue to provide that video streaming.
(B) “Video streaming” means media in which the data from a live filming or a video file is continuously delivered via the internet to a remote user, allowing a video to be viewed online by the public without being downloaded on a host computer or device.
(3) (A) Unless there are any laws that prohibit in-person government meetings in the case of a declared state of emergency, including a public health emergency, all open and public meetings shall include an in-person public comment opportunity, wherein members of the public can report to a designated site to give public comment in person. The location of the designated site and any relevant instructions on in-person commenting shall be included with the public posting of the agenda.
(B) All open and public meetings shall provide the public with an opportunity to comment on proposed legislation via a two-way telephonic or internet-based service option, and ensure the opportunity for the members of the public participating via a two-way telephonic or internet-based option to comment on agenda items with the same time allotment as a person attending a meeting in person.
(b) This section shall remain in effect only until December 31, 2023, and as of that date is repealed.

SEC. 3.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district under this act would result either from a legislative mandate that is within the scope of paragraph (7) of subdivision (b) of Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution, or because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.

SEC. 4.

 The Legislature finds and declares that Sections 1 and 2 of this act, which amends Section 54953 of, and adds Section 54953.9 to, the Government Code, furthers, within the meaning of paragraph (7) of subdivision (b) of Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution, the purposes of that constitutional section as it relates to the right of public access to the meetings of local public bodies or the writings of local public officials and local agencies. Pursuant to paragraph (7) of subdivision (b) of Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution, the Legislature makes the following findings:
The provisions of the act allow for greater public access through requiring specified entities to provide a telephonic or internet-based service option and instructions on how to access these options to the public for specified meetings.

SEC. 5.

 The Legislature finds and declares that improving accessibility to open and public meetings of local legislative bodies is a matter of statewide concern and is not a municipal affair as that term is used in Section 5 of Article XI of the California Constitution. Therefore, Section 2 of this act adding Section 54953.9 to the Government Code applies to all cities and counties, including charter cities and counties.

SEC. 6.

 Sections 1.1 and 1.2 of this bill incorporates amendments to Section 54953 of the Government Code proposed by both this bill and Assembly Bill 361. Those sections of this bill shall only become operative if (1) both bills are enacted and become effective on or before January 1, 2022, (2) each bill amends Section 54953 of the Government Code, and (3) this bill is enacted after Assembly Bill 361, in which case Section 54953 of the Government Code, as amended by Assembly Bill 361, shall remain operative only until the operative date of this bill, at which time Sections 1.1 and 1.2 of this bill shall become operative, and Section 1 of this bill shall not become operative.