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AB-361 Open meetings: local agencies: teleconferences.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 07/06/2021 09:00 PM
AB361:v96#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  July 06, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  May 10, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  April 06, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 361


Introduced by Assembly Member Robert Rivas

February 01, 2021


An act to amend amend, repeal, and add Section 54953 of the Government Code, relating to local government.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 361, as amended, Robert Rivas. Open meetings: local agencies: teleconferences.
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. The act contains specified provisions regarding the timelines for posting an agenda and providing for the ability of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public. The act generally requires all regular and special meetings of the legislative body be held within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction, subject to certain exceptions. The act allows for meetings to occur via teleconferencing subject to certain requirements, particularly that the legislative body notice each teleconference location of each member that will be participating in the public meeting, that each teleconference location be accessible to the public, that members of the public be allowed to address the legislative body at each teleconference location, that the legislative body post an agenda at each teleconference location, and that at least a quorum of the legislative body participate from locations within the boundaries of the local agency’s jurisdiction. The act provides an exemption to the jurisdictional requirement for health authorities, as defined. The act authorizes the district attorney or any interested person, subject to certain provisions, to commence an action by mandamus or injunction for the purpose of obtaining a judicial determination that specified actions taken by a legislative body are null and void.
Existing law, the California Emergency Services Act, authorizes the Governor, or the Director of Emergency Services when the governor is inaccessible, to proclaim a state of emergency under specified circumstances, and authorizes a specified legislative body or an official designated to proclaim a local emergency. Existing law allows a local health officer to declare a local public health emergency, which, after 7 days, must be ratified by the county board of supervisors, or city council, as applicable, in order to remain in place. circumstances.
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 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 for the purpose of declaring or ratifying a local emergency, during a declared state of emergency or local emergency, emergency, as those terms are that term is defined, when state or local health officials have imposed or recommended measures to promote social distancing, and during a declared local proclaimed state of emergency provided the legislative body determines, held for the purpose of determining, by majority vote, that whether meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees. The 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 submitting 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. The
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, local 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 state 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.
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 local agency meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergencies by allowing broader access through teleconferencing options.
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.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

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, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
(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 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 for the purpose of proclaiming or ratifying a local emergency.

(B)

(A) The legislative body holds a meeting during a proclaimed state of emergency or declared local emergency, emergency, and state or local officials have imposed or recommended measures to promote social distancing.

(C)

(B) The legislative body holds a meeting during a declared local proclaimed state of emergency and the legislative body determines by majority vote that, 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 submitting 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 or local 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 or local emergency. 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)The local emergency continues to present risks to the health or safety of members or the public if one or more members of the legislative body were to attend the meeting in person.

(iii)

(ii) State or local officials continue to impose or recommend measures to promote social distancing.
(4) For the purposes of this subdivision, the following definitions shall apply:
(A)“State “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).

(B)“Local emergency” means an emergency proclaimed by the governing body of a county or city and county, or by an official designated by ordinance adopted by that governing body pursuant to Section 8630 of the California Emergency Services Act (Article 14 (commencing with Section 8550) of Chapter 7 of Division 1 of Title 2) as a result of conditions existing in all or a portion of the jurisdiction of the local agency. Local emergency refers only to local emergencies in the jurisdiction in which the legislative body is located.

(f) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2024, and as of that date is repealed.

SEC. 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, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
(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.SEC. 3.

 It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to improve and enhance public access to local agency meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic and future applicable emergencies, by allowing broader access through teleconferencing options consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order No. N-29-20 dated March 17, 2020, permitting expanded use of teleconferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEC. 3.SEC. 4.

 The Legislature finds and declares that Section 1 of this act, which amends Section 54953 of 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:
This act is necessary to ensure minimum standards for public participation and notice requirements allowing for greater public participation in teleconference meetings during applicable emergencies.