Home>Articles>Bill to Require State and Local Government Open Meetings to Include Call-In or Online Option

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Bill to Require State and Local Government Open Meetings to Include Call-In or Online Option

AB 339 would also clarify that teleconferencing may be used by members of the legislative body

By Chris Micheli, March 23, 2021 4:07 pm

Assembly Members Alex Lee  (D-San Jose),  and Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) introduced their Assembly Bill 339 to ensure open meetings of state and local governments. The bill would amend Sections 9027, 54953, 54954.2, 54954.3, 11122.5, 11123, 11125.7 and add Sections 9027.1 and 9028.1 to the Government Code.

Section One of the bill would amend Government Code Section 9027 that deals with meetings of a house of the Legislature or any committee which already requires them to be open and public, and all persons be permitted to attend the meeting. This bill would specify that all meetings would have to include an opportunity for all persons to attend via a call-in option or an internet-based service option that provides closed captioning services. The bill would also amend the definition of “meeting” to include a gathering using teleconference technology.

Section Two of the bill would add Government Code Section 9027.1 to provide that all meetings would be required to provide the public with an opportunity to comment on proposed legislation, either in person or remotely via call-in or internet-based service, consistent with requirements in Section 9027.

Assemblyman Alex Lee. (Photo: votealexlee.com)

In addition, persons commenting in person will not be permitted more time or in any other way be prioritized over persons commenting remotely via call-in or internet-based service. Moreover, translation services must be provided for the 10 most-spoken languages, other than English, in California. If there are time restrictions on public comment, persons giving a public comment in a language other than English will then have double the amount of time as those giving a comment to allow for translation.

Section Three of the bill would add Government Code Section 9028.1 to provide that instructions on how to attend the meeting via call-in or internet-based service must be posted online in an easily accessible location at the time the meeting is scheduled and notice of the meeting is published. In addition, the posted instructions must include translations into the 10 most-spoken languages, other than English, in California.

Section Four of the bill would amend Government Code Section 54953 which deals with meetings of the legislative body of a local agency. This bill would add that all meetings must include an opportunity for all persons to attend via a call-in option or an internet-based service option that provides closed-captioning services. The bill would also clarify that teleconferencing may be used by members of the legislative body.

In addition, this section of law would provide that, regardless of any laws that prohibit in-person government meetings in the case of a declared state of emergency, including a public health emergency, teleconferenced meetings must include an in-person public comment opportunity.

Section Five of the bill would amend Government Code Section 54954.2 to provide that agendas and instructions for accessing meetings, whether teleconferenced or in person, must be translated into all languages for which 5 percent of the population in the area governed by the local agency is a speaker.

Section Six of the bill would amend Government Code Section 54954.3 that deals with agendas for regular meetings of local legislative bodies. It would specify that all meetings must provide the public with an opportunity to address the legislative body remotely via call-in and internet-based service. Moreover, persons commenting in person cannot have more time or in any other way be prioritized over persons commenting remotely via call-in or internet-based service. And, instructions on how to attend the meeting via call-in or internet-based service are required to be posted online along with the meeting agenda in an easily accessible location.

In addition, the bill would add to this section of law that the legislative bodies of local agencies must employ a sufficient amount of qualified bilingual persons to provide translation during the meeting in the language of the non-English-speaking person, in jurisdictions which govern a substantial number of non-English-speaking people.

Section Seven of the bill would amend Government Code Section 11122.5 dealing with the definition of “meeting” for a state body. It would amend the definition to include “a virtual congregation using teleconference technology.”

Section Eight of the bill would amend Government Code Section 11123 that deals with meetings of a state body, which are required to be open and public. The bill would provide that all meetings must include an opportunity for all persons to attend via a call-in option or an internet-based service option that provides closed captioning services.

In addition, this section of the law would be amended to provide that at least one member of a state body must be physically present “to ensure that members of the public are able to give public comment in person. This location must be publicly accessible and able to accommodate a reasonable amount of people, given the circumstances.” Also, this section of law would be amended so that instructions on how to attend the meeting via call-in or internet-based service would have to be posted online along with the meeting agenda in an easily accessible location at least 72 hours before all regular meetings and at least 24 hours before all special meetings. Moreover, the posted instructions would also have to be translated into all languages of which 5 percent of the population of the state body’s jurisdiction speaks.

Section Nine of the bill would amend Government Code Section 11125.7 to provide that public comment must be made available for those attending any meeting via call-in or internet-based service option.

Section Ten of the bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this bill because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district under this act would result from a legislative mandate.

Section Eleven of the bill would make a legislative finding and declaration related to the right of public access to the meetings of local public bodies or the writings of local public officials and local agencies. Specifically, the Legislature would make a finding that this bill would allow for greater public access through requiring specified entities to provide a call-in and internet-based service and instructions on how to access these options to the public for specified meetings and allow for greater accommodations for non-English speakers attending the meetings.

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2 thoughts on “Bill to Require State and Local Government Open Meetings to Include Call-In or Online Option

  1. “Moreover, translation services must be provided for the 10 most-spoken languages, other than English, in California. ”

    Gee, why stop at 10? Why not 50???

    California is a lost cause of virtue-signaling panderers….

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