SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Local governments would be required to permanently provide the ability to participate in public meetings virtually under a bill introduced this week in the state legislature.
In addition to making permanent remote access and live broadcasts of public meetings, the 1944 Assembly Bill would allow local government bodies that meet remotely to waive a provision of the Brown Law of the Assembly. state that requires public officials to disclose their private address if they intend to attend meetings. virtually.
Current state law allows government agencies such as city councils and boards of supervisors to hold meetings remotely if a quorum of members attends from locations within their given jurisdiction.
However, elected officials who participate remotely are required to disclose their private address to ensure that they live in a given jurisdiction, unless a majority of their governing body votes to waive this requirement.
AB 1944 co-author Assemblyman Alex Lee, D-San Jose, argued that the Brown Law requirement to release an official’s private address or location could impair his ability to perform his civilian duties, using the example that a civil servant recovering from surgery in a hospital room would be required to reveal the location of the hospital and their room under current state law.
Lee also argued that teleconference meetings and remote participation options have made it much easier for members of the public, who may not be able to attend a government meeting on a weekday morning, to express their thoughts on local policy issues.
“During the pandemic, we have seen that remote public participation for governments is not only possible, but vital for many people who would otherwise be excluded from decision-making spaces,” Lee said.
Lee and Congresswoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, introduced the bill as an amended version of last year’s Assembly Bill 339.
This bill, which they also jointly introduced, would have required local government agencies to provide remote access options for public meetings as well as captioning and translation services.
AB 339 was later scaled back amid criticism from a coalition of public, private and educational agencies who argued the financial cost of continuing to provide remote meeting access in perpetuity would be too onerous.
The final version of the bill applied only to jurisdictions with populations over 25,000, had no translation or captioning requirements, and would have ended after 2023.
According to this version, only 26 of the state’s 58 counties and 15 of its 482 cities would have been subject to maintaining access to remote meetings.
As state lawmakers passed AB 339, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed it in October, saying in a statement at the time that the bill would have limited meeting flexibility and increased operating costs. for cities, counties and other relevant government agencies.
According to Lee, who introduced the bill on Thursday, AB 1944 already has the support of city council members from Gilroy, Seaside, South San Francisco, Santa Ana and Sacramento as well as members of the United School District’s boards of trustees. Santa Clara County. and the San Bruno Park School District.
“Allowing remote participation for the community will ensure that those who wouldn’t normally show up for a meeting will be able to have their voices heard,” Garcia said.
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