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

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Date Published: 05/04/2021 09:00 PM
AB339:v97#DOCUMENT

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, and Robert Rivas)

January 28, 2021


An act to amend Sections 54953, 54954.2, and 54954.3 amend, repeal, and add Section 54953 of the Government Code, relating to public meetings.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 339, as amended, 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 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 telephonic option and or an internet-based service option. 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 and or an internet-based service option, as provided, and would specify requirements for public comment registration. The bill would also require the legislative bodies of the local agency to provide interpretation services as requested, and have a system to process requests for interpretation services and publicize that system online. provided.

This bill would require legislative bodies of local agencies to make available instructions on joining the meeting to all non-English-speaking persons upon request, and publish the instructions in the 2 most spoken languages other than English within the local agency’s jurisdiction.

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.
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.
(b) All open and public meetings of a city council or a county board of supervisors that governs a jurisdiction containing at least 250,000 people shall include an opportunity for members of the public to attend via a telephonic option and or an internet-based service option. For the purposes of this chapter, “internet-based service option” means a service or platform that allows two-way video and audio participation through the internet. All members of the public shall be entitled to participate in open and public meetings, regardless of national origin or language ability.
(c) (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 by members of the legislative body 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 (e). (f). 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.
(d) All open and public meetings of 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:

(5)(A)

(1) 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)

(2) All open and public meetings shall provide the public with an opportunity to comment on proposed legislation, both in person and remotely via a telephonic and or an internet-based service option, and ensure the opportunity for the members of the public participating via a telephonic or an internet-based option to comment on agenda items with the same time allotment as a person attending a meeting in person.

(C)Registration for public comment period is permitted, so long as instructions to register are posted, members of the public are able to register over the telephone and in person, and registration remains open until the comment period has finished for that agenda item. Information collected for registration purposes shall be limited to name, telephone number, and county of residence.

(d)

(e) (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.

(e)

(f) (1) Notwithstanding the provisions relating to a quorum in paragraph (3) of subdivision (c), 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.
(g) This section shall remain in effect only until December 31, 2023, and as of that date is repealed.

SEC. 2.Section 54954.2 of the Government Code is amended to read:
54954.2.

(a)(1)At least 72 hours before a regular meeting, the legislative body of the local agency, or its designee, shall post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting, including items to be discussed in closed session. A brief general description of an item generally need not exceed 20 words. The agenda shall specify the time and location of the regular meeting and shall be posted in a location that is freely accessible to members of the public and on the local agency’s internet website, if the local agency has one. If requested, the agenda shall be made available in appropriate alternative formats to persons with a disability, as required by Section 202 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 12132), and the federal rules and regulations adopted in implementation thereof. The agenda shall include information regarding how, to whom, and when a request for disability-related modification or accommodation, including auxiliary aids or services, may be made by a person with a disability who requires a modification or accommodation in order to participate in the public meeting.

(2)Instructions on joining the meeting via telephonic or internet-based service option, including registration for public comment, if required, shall be made available to all non-English-speaking persons upon request and should at minimum be published in the two most spoken languages other than English within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction. The meeting agenda should be made available upon request to all non-English-speaking persons within those boundaries in their language, regardless of national origin or language ability.

(3)For a meeting occurring on and after January 1, 2019, of a legislative body of a city, county, city and county, special district, school district, or political subdivision established by the state that has an internet website, the following provisions shall apply:

(A)An online posting of an agenda shall be posted on the primary internet website homepage of a city, county, city and county, special district, school district, or political subdivision established by the state that is accessible through a prominent, direct link to the current agenda. The direct link to the agenda shall not be in a contextual menu; however, a link in addition to the direct link to the agenda may be accessible through a contextual menu.

(B)An online posting of an agenda including, but not limited to, an agenda posted in an integrated agenda management platform, shall be posted in an open format that meets all of the following requirements:

(i)Retrievable, downloadable, indexable, and electronically searchable by commonly used internet search applications.

(ii)Platform independent and machine readable.

(iii)Available to the public free of charge and without any restriction that would impede the reuse or redistribution of the agenda.

(C)A legislative body of a city, county, city and county, special district, school district, or political subdivision established by the state that has an internet website and an integrated agenda management platform shall not be required to comply with subparagraph (A) if all of the following are met:

(i)A direct link to the integrated agenda management platform shall be posted on the primary internet website homepage of a city, county, city and county, special district, school district, or political subdivision established by the state. The direct link to the integrated agenda management platform shall not be in a contextual menu. When a person clicks on the direct link to the integrated agenda management platform, the direct link shall take the person directly to an internet website with the agendas of the legislative body of a city, county, city and county, special district, school district, or political subdivision established by the state.

(ii)The integrated agenda management platform may contain the prior agendas of a legislative body of a city, county, city and county, special district, school district, or political subdivision established by the state for all meetings occurring on or after January 1, 2019.

(iii)The current agenda of the legislative body of a city, county, city and county, special district, school district, or political subdivision established by the state shall be the first agenda available at the top of the integrated agenda management platform.

(iv)All agendas posted in the integrated agenda management platform shall comply with the requirements in clauses (i), (ii), and (iii) of subparagraph (B).

(D)For the purposes of this paragraph, both of the following definitions shall apply:

(i)“Integrated agenda management platform” means an internet website of a city, county, city and county, special district, school district, or political subdivision established by the state dedicated to providing the entirety of the agenda information for the legislative body of the city, county, city and county, special district, school district, or political subdivision established by the state to the public.

(ii)“Legislative body” has the same meaning as that term is used in subdivision (a) of Section 54952.

(E)The provisions of this paragraph shall not apply to a political subdivision of a local agency that was established by the legislative body of the city, county, city and county, special district, school district, or political subdivision established by the state.

(4)No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not appearing on the posted agenda, except that members of a legislative body or its staff may briefly respond to statements made or questions posed by persons exercising their public testimony rights under Section 54954.3. In addition, on their own initiative or in response to questions posed by the public, a member of a legislative body or its staff may ask a question for clarification, make a brief announcement, or make a brief report on the member’s own activities. Furthermore, a member of a legislative body, or the body itself, subject to rules or procedures of the legislative body, may provide a reference to staff or other resources for factual information, request staff to report back to the body at a subsequent meeting concerning any matter, or take action to direct staff to place a matter of business on a future agenda.

(b)Notwithstanding subdivision (a), the legislative body may take action on items of business not appearing on the posted agenda under any of the conditions stated below. Prior to discussing any item pursuant to this subdivision, the legislative body shall publicly identify the item.

(1)Upon a determination by a majority vote of the legislative body that an emergency situation exists, as defined in Section 54956.5.

(2)Upon a determination by a two-thirds vote of the members of the legislative body present at the meeting, or, if less than two-thirds of the members are present, a unanimous vote of those members present, that there is a need to take immediate action and that the need for action came to the attention of the local agency subsequent to the agenda being posted as specified in subdivision (a).

(3)The item was posted pursuant to subdivision (a) for a prior meeting of the legislative body occurring not more than five calendar days prior to the date action is taken on the item, and at the prior meeting the item was continued to the meeting at which action is being taken.

(c)This section is necessary to implement and reasonably within the scope of paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution.

(d)For purposes of subdivision (a), the requirement that the agenda be posted on the local agency’s internet website, if the local agency has one, shall only apply to a legislative body that meets either of the following standards:

(1)A legislative body as that term is defined by subdivision (a) of Section 54952.

(2)A legislative body as that term is defined by subdivision (b) of Section 54952, if the members of the legislative body are compensated for their appearance, and if one or more of the members of the legislative body are also members of a legislative body as that term is defined by subdivision (a) of Section 54952.

SEC. 3.Section 54954.3 of the Government Code is amended to read:
54954.3.

(a)Every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public, during the legislative body’s consideration of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body, provided that no action shall be taken on any item not appearing on the agenda unless the action is otherwise authorized by subdivision (b) of Section 54954.2. The agenda need not provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body on any item that has already been considered by a committee, composed exclusively of members of the legislative body, at a public meeting wherein all interested members of the public were afforded the opportunity to address the committee on the item, before or during the committee’s consideration of the item, unless the item has been substantially changed since the committee heard the item, as determined by the legislative body. Every notice for a special meeting shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body concerning any item that has been described in the notice for the meeting before or during consideration of that item.

(b)(1)The legislative body of a local agency may adopt reasonable regulations to ensure that the intent of subdivision (a) is carried out, including, but not limited to, regulations limiting the total amount of time allocated for public testimony on particular issues and for each individual speaker.

(2)Notwithstanding paragraph (1), when the legislative body of a local agency limits time for public comment, the legislative body of a local agency shall provide at least twice the allotted time to a member of the public who utilizes a translator to ensure that non-English speakers receive the same opportunity to directly address the legislative body of a local agency.

(3)Paragraph (2) shall not apply if the legislative body of a local agency utilizes simultaneous translation equipment in a manner that allows the legislative body of a local agency to hear the translated public testimony simultaneously.

(c)The legislative body of a local agency shall not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs, or services of the agency, or of the acts or omissions of the legislative body. Nothing in this subdivision shall confer any privilege or protection for expression beyond that otherwise provided by law.

(d)All members of the public shall be entitled to participate in public meetings, regardless of national origin or language ability. If interpretation services are requested for the public meeting and public comment period, those services should be provided.

(e)Local agencies shall have in place a system for requesting and receiving interpretation services for public meetings, including the public comment period. Local agencies shall publicize this system and the instructions on how to request certified interpretation services for public meetings online.

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 on December 31, 2023.

SEC. 4.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. 5.SEC. 4.

 The Legislature finds and declares that Sections 1, 2, and 3 Section 1 of this act, which amend Sections 54953, 54954.2, and 54954.3 amends Section 54953 of the Government Code, further, 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 and or internet-based service option and instructions on how to access these options to the public for specified meetings and allow for greater accommodations for non-English speakers attending the meetings.