CSAC Bulletin Article

CSAC Co-Sponsors Brown Act Reform Intended to Increase Civic Engagement

March 23, 2023

CSAC is delighted to be part of a broad local government coalition co-sponsoring AB 817 (Pacheco) Open meetings: teleconferencing: subsidiary body, along with the California Association of Recreation and Park Districts, League of California Cities, Rural County Representatives of California, and the Urban Counties of California.

AB 817 would increase civic engagement by allowing members of non-decision-making legislative bodies that do not have the ability to take final action to participate in two-way virtual teleconferencing without posting their personal addresses while teleconferencing. Counties and other local governments have faced an ongoing challenge to recruit and retain members of the public on advisory bodies, boards, and commissions. Challenges associated with recruitment have been attributed to participation time commitments, time and location of meetings, physical limitation, conflicts with childcare, and work obligations, to name just a few.

The COVID-19 pandemic drove both hyper-awareness and concerns about the spread of infectious diseases, as well as removed barriers to local civic participation by allowing this same remote participation. This enabled individuals who could not otherwise accommodate the time, distance, or mandatory physical participation requirements to engage locally, providing access to leadership opportunities and providing communities with greater diversified input on critical community proposals.

The in-person requirement to participate in local governance bodies presents a disproportionate challenge for those with physical or economic limitations, including seniors, persons with disability, single parents and/or caretakers, economically marginalized groups, and those who live in rural areas and face prohibitive driving distances. AB 817 addresses these issues by providing a narrow exemption under the Ralph M. Brown Act for non-decision-making legislative bodies that do not take final action on any legislation, regulations, contracts, licenses, permits, or other entitlements, so that equity in opportunity to serve locally and representative diversity in leadership can be achieved.

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 fact sheet for AB 817 (Pacheco) can be accessed here. Additionally, 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.

Reminder: As shared on March 2nd, CSAC is also cosponsoring another Brown Act bill, 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. Please support AB 557 by using this support letter template to register your support through the Online Submissions Portal as soon as possible, and please share a copy with CSAC (send to Amanda Yang).

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