SB 1003 by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) offers a way for local government bodies to avoid litigation by pledging to abandon meeting-related practices that prompt accusations of Brown Act violations–without conceding that they are unlawful. It also gives citizens the opportunity to demand and achieve such changes without having to file a lawsuit. The bill was introduced in response to an unpublished opinion of the Fifth District Court of Appeal (McKee v. Tulare County Board of Supervisors) holding that past actions or practices of a local legislative body that were not persisting into the present could not be the basis for mandatory, injunctive or declaratory relief under Government Code Section 54960. As introduced, the bill would have simply added the word “past” to the section, to allow such remedies “to determine the applicability of this chapter to past actions or threatened future action of the legislative body.” That would have brought the Brown Act in conformity with the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Law, which already takes this approach. But the League of California Cities and an array of other local government lobbies typically active on Brown Act measures argued that such a change would expose them to an unreasonably open-ended period of liability. They negotiated a more limited but also more complicated alternative with the co-sponsors of the bill, the California Newspaper Publishers Association (a party to the unsuccessful Fifth District action) and Californians Aware (whose founding president, the late Richard McKee, was the original plaintiff in the Fifth District action). The resulting bill now awaits action on the Assembly floor after passage in the Senate and withdrawal of opposition by the local government lobbies involved in the negotiations. It provides dual actions “to determine [...]
SESSION: 2012 INFORMATION: SB 1003 (Yee) would amend the Brown Act to allow a court to determine the Act’s applicability to past actions of a local legislative body alleged to be violations. The bill is a corrective to an unpublished decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal (review denied by the Supreme Court) concluding that a trial court had no authority to address past actions of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors in a challenge to the legality of those actions. In that case the late Richard McKee, suing in his own behalf rather than that of CalAware and later joined by the local Gannett newspapers and the California Newspaper Publishers Association, asked the court to find that a series of private lunch gatherings of the supervisors and staff, on the same days as their meetings and with meal costs reimbursed to the supervisors as involving county business, violated the Brown Act by involving discussion of matters that should have been confined to open sessions. The trial court ruled that those matters, which included issues of the supervisors’ travel and office administration, were not policy matters and therefore not official enough for the Brown Act to apply. On appeal, the Fifth District concluded that since the meetings had been discontinued (ignoring the testimony to the contrary by county counsel), there was no basis for declaratory and injunctive relief, which applied only to ongoing or threatened violations. SB 1003 would add the words “and past” to the statute—an adjustment made to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act in response to a similarly pinched ruling by the California Supreme Court in 1999. POSITION: Support STATUS
SESSION: 2012 INFORMATION: SB 959 (Lieu and Yee) would, among other things, would prohibit the trustees from acting to increase the salary range of any university officer or employee or to increase the tuition or mandatory systemwide fees of university students except in an open and noticed meeting pursuant to the Bagley-Keene Act. POSITION: Support STATUS
SESSION: 2012 INFORMATION: SB 804 (Corbett) would require a health care district’s asset transfer agreement, when transferring 50 percent or more of the district’s assets to a nonprofit organization to operate and maintain them, to be fully discussed and properly noticed in at least five public meetings before the board decides to transfer the assets. Background from the Senate Rules Committee Analysis: Health care districts were formed under state law to meet health needs not satisfied by other health care resources or government programs in a given geographical area. Districts formed pursuant to state law are financed assessments on real and personal property within the district. A 2006 report published by the California Healthcare Foundation found that 85 health care and hospital districts have been formed in California since the first hospital district enabling legislation was passed in 1946. Districts operate medical facilities, including, public health clinics, and skilled nursing facilities. Some also provide community-based education to the residents of their districts. Responding to changes in health care delivery, districts explore economic and organizational alternatives, including leasing or selling their assets to nonprofit corporations or even to for-profit companies. According to the author’s office, “SB 804 will help ensure that the public has the information they need to decide about the transfer of health care district’s assets to an outside entity for less than fair market value. Under current law, a transfer of 50 percent or more of a healthcare district’s assets requires voter approval, but there is no requirement to provide voters with an independently verified valuation of the assets in question. SB 804 remedies this problem, by requiring an independent appraisal of the fair market value of the health care district’s assets and ensuring [...]
SESSION: 2012 INFORMATION: AB 1590 (Campos) would include these boards in the definition of “legislative body” subject to the Brown Act—but permit them to hold closed sessions “as provided by Section 1605.4 of the Revenue and Taxation Code.” POSITION: Watch STATUS
SESSION: 2011 INFORMATION: SCA 7 (Yee) would place on the statewide ballot a measure adding to the California Constitution’s open government mandate (Prop 59 of 2004) the requirement that “(e)ach public body shall provide public notice of its meetings and shall publicly disclose any action taken,” thus eliminating the vulnerability of these mandates in the Brown Act to cost-driven suspension. POSITION: Support STATUS: Held in Assembly Appropriations suspense file.
SESSION: 2011 INFORMATION: AB 620 (Block) would bar legislative bodies from denying attendance at public meetings on the basis of gender “identity” or gender “expression.” POSITION: Support STATUS: Signed into law.
SESSION: 2011 INFORMATION: AB 392 (Alejo) would require the legislative body of a local agency to post the agenda and specified staff-generated reports that relate to items on the agenda on its Internet Web site, if any, as specified. The bill would require the legislative body of the local agency, if it did not have an Internet Web site, to disclose on the posted agenda a public location where the agency would make an applicable staff-generated report available for copying and inspection by a member of the public for at least 72 hours prior to the meeting. POSITION: Support STATUS: Died in Appropriations Committee based on cost.
LEGISLATIVE SESSION: 2011 INFORMATION: AB 360 (Brownley) would specify that charter schools are subject to the Brown Act, the California Public Records Act and the Political Reform Act. POSITION: Supported by CalAware, ordered to Assembly inactive file after passing Assembly and Senate. STATUS: Opponent’s status report as of February 2, 2012.