On June 11, 2021, Governor Newsom’s office issued Executive Order N-08-21, which specifies that the continued flexibility of certain open meeting requirements under the Brown Act, including the conduct of local agency meetings through electronic or telephonic means, will terminate on September 30, 2021. Order N-08-21 modifies the Governor’s announcement on June 2, 2021, that the modified Brown Act standards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic would remain in effect beyond the June 15th reopening plan.
In a prior Legal Alert, OMLO examined how the continued Brown Act flexibility after the June 15th reopening plan would help cities and local governments prepare for eventual in-person public meetings and Brown Act compliance. With the issuance of this Executive Order, effective October 1, 2021, standard Brown Act laws as well as other state and local public meeting requirements will be reinstated.
The following specific Brown Act requirements, which were previously suspended, will be reinstated on October 1, 2021:
- Local bodies must notice each teleconference location from which a member will be participating in a public meeting.
- Each teleconference location must be identified in the meeting notice and agenda.
- Each teleconference location must be accessible to the public.
- Members of the public may address the body at each teleconference conference location.
- Local bodies are required to post agendas at all teleconference locations.
- During teleconference meetings, at least a quorum of the members of the local body must participate from locations within the boundaries of the territory over which the local body exercises jurisdiction.
Two bills have been introduced in the Legislature to allow the continued electronic participation by the public in Brown Act meetings.
- Assembly Bill (AB) 339 would require all open and public meetings of a city council or a county board of supervisors that governs a jurisdiction of at least 250,000 people to include an opportunity for members of the public to attend public meetings via atwo-way telephonic option or an a two-way internet-based service option, and would require a city council or county board of supervisors that has, as of June 15, 2021, provided video streaming of its meetings to continue to provide that video streaming. 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. The bill was approved by the Assembly June 2, 2021, and has been referred to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- AB 361 would permit local agencies to conduct public meetings virtually during a declared local or state emergency, without requiring a Governor-issued executive order to suspend these open meeting requirements. AB 361 was approved by the Assembly last month (May 2021) and has been referred to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
OMLO is continuing the monitor the progress and status of these bills.
OMLO will continue to monitor these developments carefully. This article is for informational purposes only and only provides an overview of specific developments. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation. For actual legal advice and specifics pertaining to your governmental entity, please contact your OMLO attorney for assistance.