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AB 361 Findings for Special Brown Act Requirements for Teleconference Meetings -
Make the following findings: (1) the City Council has reconsidered the circumstances of the COVID-19 state of emergency; and (2) the COVID-19 state of emergency continues to directly impact the ability of the members of the City’s legislative bodies (including commissions and committees) to meet safely in person. There is no impact to the General Fund for this item.
On March 4, 2020, Governor Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency to exist in California due to the spread of COVID-19. This proclamation is still in effect. The Governor subsequently issued numerous executive orders suspending or modifying state laws to facilitate the response to the emergency. Among other things, these executive orders superseded certain Brown Act requirements and established special rules to give local public agencies greater flexibility to conduct teleconference meetings. The special rules included provisions allowing local public agencies to conduct teleconference meetings without having to provide a physical location from which the public may attend or comment; without having to use teleconference locations that are publicly accessible; and without having to identify teleconference locations on the agenda. Those special rules expired on September 30, 2021.
On September 16, 2021, in anticipation of the then-imminent expiration of his special rules for teleconference meetings, Governor Newsom signed AB 361. In key part, this bill amended the Brown Act to establish special requirements for teleconference meetings if a legislative body of a local public agency makes two findings pursuant to Government Code Section 54953(e)(3). Like the special rules in the Governor’s executive orders, the special Brown Act requirements in AB 361 include provisions allowing public agencies to conduct teleconference meetings without having to provide a physical location from which the public may attend or comment; without having to use teleconference locations that are publicly accessible; and without having to identify teleconference locations on the agenda. The AB 361 special Brown Act requirements are scheduled to be repealed on January 1, 2024.
In order for a local public agency to be subject to the AB 361 special Brown Act requirements for teleconference meetings, a legislative body of a local public agency first must make a finding that it has “reconsidered” the circumstances of a declared state of emergency. Second, there must be a finding that such emergency continues to directly impact the ability of legislative body members to meet safely in person. Alternatively, for the second finding, there must be a finding that state or local officials continue to impose or recommend social distancing measures. These findings must be made within 30 days after the first teleconference meeting under AB 361 and every 30 days thereafter. The City Council last made these findings on October 19, 2021.
There is no fiscal impact. In order for the City’s legislative bodies to continue to have the option to conduct teleconference meetings under AB 361, the City Council must make the two (2) findings specified in that bill. Making these findings allows the City’s legislative bodies (including commissions and committees) to utilize the teleconference meeting flexibility provided by AB 361 based on the health and safety circumstances of their members. It is sufficient for the City Council to make these findings, and the findings do not separately have to be made by a commission or committee that conducts teleconference meetings pursuant to AB 361. This action does not require the City Council, or any particular commission or committee, to conduct teleconference meetings.
William Gallardo, City Manager
Prepared by: Terence Boga, City Attorney
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