Gov. Newsom Extends Remote Government Meetings
- By: Margaret E. Long
On September 16, 2021, Governor Newsom signed AB 361 into law. The stated aim of AB 361 is “to improve and enhance public access to local agency meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic and future applicable emergencies, by allowing broader access through teleconferencing options” consistent with Executive Order N-29-20. This urgency bill became effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature, and amends the Brown Act to allow governing bodies to hold remote meetings during a proclaimed state of emergency without following the Brown Act’s teleconferencing rules. Governor Newsom’s Executive Order to allow teleconferenced meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic expires on September 30, 2021.
AB 361 provides that governing bodies do not need to follow the Brown Act’s teleconferencing rules if it makes a finding that:
- There is a proclaimed state of emergency and either state or local officials have imposed or recommended social distancing measures or
- Meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees.
If the governing body chooses to continue using the provisions of AB 361, the governing body must reconsider and make these findings every 30 days.
If governing bodies utilize the remote meeting option provided in AB 361, they must also adhere to the following requirements:
- Give notice of meetings and post agendas as otherwise required by the Brown Act.
- Provide members of the public virtual access to the meeting and an opportunity to address the governing body directly through that virtual access;
- Provide notice of the means by which members of the public may access the meeting virtually in any instance in which they give notice of the time for the teleconferenced meeting or post the agenda for the teleconferenced meeting;
- Ensure the agenda identifies and includes an opportunity for all persons to attend the teleconference meeting by a call-in option or internet-based service option;
- Not require comments be submitted in advance (though the legislative body may provide that as an option), and provide the opportunity to comment in real time;
- Stop the meeting if there is a disruption into the call-in option or internet-based service option that results in members of the public being unable to access the meeting; governing bodies may not take action on any agenda items during this disruption of access; and
- Refrain from closing a timed public comment period before the time for the comment period has elapsed. If governing bodies do not use timed public comment periods, they must allow a reasonable time per agenda item for public comment.
The bill includes a sunset on local agencies of January 1, 2024.
Please feel free to contact Prentice Long, PC if you would like assistance in applying AB 361.