CSAC Bulletin Article

Incivility and Remote Access for Public Meetings Targeted by New Bills

Several newly introduced bills would change the requirements for local Brown Act meetings and state Bagley-Keene meetings. The bills follow two years of changes to public meetings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing hostility and incivility exhibited in many communities.

SB 1100, by former county supervisor Senator Dave Cortese, deals with behavior at Brown Act meetings. The bill would clarify the rules around when individuals can be removed for willfully interrupting a meeting. The bill would require a warning to be issued before removal in most cases, and would apply to behavior “that substantially impairs or renders infeasible the orderly conduct of the meeting in accordance with law,” including failure to comply reasonable meeting rules adopted by the legislative body.

AB 1944, by Assembly Members Alex Lee and Cristina Garcia, would allow public officials to attend Brown Act meetings remotely without being required to publish their address or open their remote location to members of the public. In order to take advantage of this flexibility, legislative bodies would need to provide a publicly accessible live video stream of the meeting online and a way for members of the public to provide public comment remotely, either by phone or audio-visual means.

AB 2449, by Assembly Member Blanca Rubio, would also allow local officials to attend meetings remotely, though under slightly different conditions. This bill would require at least a quorum of legislative body to attend in person at the primary location and for all remote members to participate by both audio and visual technology. It would also require the public to be able to provide public comment remotely, either by phone or an internet-based option and it clarifies that there must be a procedure for resolving requests for reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities.

AB 2647, by Assembly Member Marc Levine would give local agencies more flexibility to make documents provided to governing board members available to the public online when they’re distributed outside of standard business hours.

For state open meetings, the most significant bill is AB 1733, by Assembly Member Bill Quirk. This bill would allow all meetings governed by the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act to be held entirely by teleconference, both for public officials and the public.

CSAC is actively working with the Legislature to make sure the Brown Act retains its core purpose of providing for open and public government meetings while also ensuring local officials have the tools to make those meetings safe and welcoming for everyone involved.

County officials with comments on these bills can contact Geoff Neill (gneill@counties.org) or Danielle Bradley (dbradley@counties.org).

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