We were incorrect in our Oct. 6 story, “New Law Means Remote Public Meetings Here To Stay.” Although AB 339 passed the legislature and went to the governor, Newsom ultimately vetoed it.
This came as a big surprise to the bill’s sponsor, State Assemblyman Alex Lee (District 25). “We had engaged with the governor’s office early on, so we were taken aback,” Lee said. “This was the only bill I ever talked to him about face-to-face.”
Because the governor had issued the original order allowing remote meetings and waiving some of the restrictions of California’s open meetings law, the Brown Act, Lee had been confident of the governor’s support.
In his veto statement, Newsom said that the bill “would set a precedent of tying public access requirements to the population of jurisdictions,” leading to “public confusion. Further, AB 339 limits flexibility and increases costs for the affected local jurisdictions trying to manage their meetings.” Newsom AB 339 Veto Statement 2021
A formidable array of California city and county organizations lobbied against AB 339, expressing concern “about their ability to conduct a Brown Act-compliant meeting if a teleconferencing service fails, even if the ailure only affects some callers.”
The group’s letter against AB 339 also incorrectly stated that the bill “will allow a relatively small group of people from anywhere in the world to disrupt a local government meeting.”
In fact, the AB 339 states: “All open and public meetings shall provide the public with an …opportunity for the members of the public participating via a two-way telephonic or internet-based option to comment on agenda items with the same time allotment as a person attending a meeting in person.” League of California Cities Letter AB 339 2021
“AB 339’s veto does not mean that Brown Act pandemic reform has failed,” Lee said in a recent press release. “We previously published an alert explaining that the Governor signed into law as urgency legislation AB 361 (Rivas) to address Brown Act teleconferencing requirements. AB 361 was intended to be a companion bill to AB 339, and now remains the law all on its own.”
Lee says he’s still committed to Brown Act reform.
“It’s going to take a lot of groundwork,” said Lee.