On March 17, 2020 the Governor issued Executive Order N-29-20 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pursuant to this Executive Order certain requirements under the Brown Act were suspended allowing legislative bodies of public agencies across the State to conduct meetings remotely. Specifically, the Executive Order suspended the following requirements:
- Suspended the requirement that notice of each teleconference location be provided for those members of the legislative body participating in the meeting;
- Suspended the requirement that each teleconference location be accessible to the public;
- Suspended the requirement that members of the public be able to address the legislative body at each teleconference location;
- Suspended the requirement that local agencies post agendas at all teleconference locations; and
- Suspended the requirement that at least a quorum of the legislative body participate from locations within the boundaries of the territory over which they exercise jurisdiction.
Executive Order N-29-20 is set to expire on September 30, 2021. On September 16, 2021, the Governor signed into law AB 361 which amends the Brown Act to allow continued flexibility for conducting public meetings. Although AB 361 had an urgency clause making it effective immediately, the Governor subsequently issued Executive Order N-15-21 waiving AB 361’s application until October 1, 2021.
The provisions of AB 361 regarding remote meetings can only be used in the event there is a Governor issued state of emergency that is active under the California Emergency Services Act. The Governor’s state of emergency enacted on March 4, 2020 presently remains in effect.
Similar to the Executive Order, AB 361 provides the same modified requirements listed above with some additional requirements, which include the following:
- Agencies cannot require that written comments be submitted in advance of a meeting, agencies may only close the comment period at the same time it is closed during the meeting.
- Agencies must clearly advertise the means by which the public can observe the meeting and offer comment during the meeting via either a call in or internet-based option, and the public must be given an opportunity to comment directly.
- In the event of a disruption in broadcasting the meeting, the legislative body shall take no further action until meeting access is restored to the public.
Should a legislative body choose to continue to meet remotely under AB 361, the legislative body will need to meet one of the following criteria:
(A) The local agency is holding a meeting during a proclaimed state of emergency, and state or local officials have imposed or recommended measures to promote social distancing; or
(B) The local agency is holding a meeting during a proclaimed state of emergency for the purpose of determining, by majority vote, whether as a result of the emergency, meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees; or
(C) The local agency is holding a meeting during a proclaimed state of emergency and has determined, by majority vote, that, as a result of the emergency, meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees.
The foregoing requires a legislative body to formally vote and adopt a resolution finding that meeting in person during the state of emergency would pose imminent risk to the health and safety of attendees. This resolution would need to be renewed every 30 days should the legislative body desire to hold another meeting under the modified remote meeting rules.
For any questions, please contact Osman Mufti at firstname.lastname@example.org.