CSAC Bulletin Article

CSAC Co-Sponsors Brown Act Legislation that provides an Effective Tool for Counties Facing Emergencies

March 2, 2023

With Governor Gavin Newsom declaring the end of California’s COVID-19 State of Emergency on February 28, 2023, California counties are transitioning to a new environment. Threats of emergency persist, as evidenced by recent flooding, earthquakes, and frequent wildfires. Accordingly, CSAC is proud to co-sponsor Assembly Bill 557, authored by Assemblymember Gregg Hart – Open meetings: local agencies: teleconferences, along with the California Special Districts Association and League of California Cities.

AB 557 would eliminate the sunset on the provision to allow remote meetings during a declared state of emergency, or in other situations related to public health, without complying with certain teleconferencing requirements, as added to California Government Code section 54953. Additionally, AB 557 would adjust the required timeframe for  resolutions passed to renew a local agency’s temporary transition to emergency remote meetings to 45 days from the previous timeline of 30 days.

Absent any legislative intervention, the processes established by AB 361 (Rivas) (Chapter 165, Statutes of 2021) to provide remote meeting flexibility to local agencies in emergency circumstances will expire on January 1, 2024. These changes were of vital importance to local agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to continue to conduct the people’s business. These changes enabled local agencies to meet during a time that it would have otherwise been impossible to meet in-person safely. Important safeguards were included to ensure transparency and accountability, including a stipulation that the emergency provisions were only applicable in instances where the California Governor had declared a state of emergency.

AB 557 (Hart) will preserve an effective tool for local agencies facing emergencies that would otherwise prevent them from conducting the people’s business when faced with an emergency.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Local Government Committee and is awaiting a hearing date. CSAC strongly encourages counties and stakeholders to submit letters in support of the bill to the Online Submissions Portal as soon as possible, and please share a copy with CSAC (send to Amanda Yang).

A support letter template that can be sent to the Assembly Local Government Committee to get your support position on record for this important measure.

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