OPEN MEETINGS -- A Republican Assemblyman has introduced a bill to apply the Brown Act's meeting agenda posting rules to the Legislature. But ACA 8 is a constitutional amendment measure, and he'll need most of the Democrat majorities in both houses (two two thirds votes) to get it on the ballot. The bill now sits in the Assembly Rules Committee, where it has yet to be further assigned.
The state constitution's open Legislature rules now say that meetings of each house and committee must be open to the public, except when held to consider specified matters, including employment and personnel, security, advice from legal counsel, and caucus matters. They also state that that no bill may be passed unless read by title on three days in each house, but the house may suspend thiis rule by a two thirds roll call vote. Finally, they prohibit a bill from being passed until, with amendments, it has been printed and distributed to the members.
ACA 8 would further require a house or committee. at least 72 hours before a regularly scheduled meeting, to post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item to be considered, including items to be considered in closed session. The measure would also:
- generally prohibit consideration of any matter not included in the agenda; require public disclosure of a writing provided to members of a house or a committee in connection with the consideration of agenda items unless the writing is exempt from the mandatory disclosure requirements imposed by statute;
- require each agenda for a regular committee meeting to provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the committee on an item of interest to the public, before or during the committee's consideration of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the committee; provide for the calling of a special or emergency meeting of the house or a committee upon specified notice to its members and the media; and
- prohibit the passage of a bill in either house until the bill with amendments has been printed
- and distributed to the members of the house at least 24 hours beforethe vote in that house on passage of the bill.
Author Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore), a veteran member of several local agency boards and commissions, says what local officials have been grumbling for as long as the Brown Act has been around: that the Legislature imposes on local government several transparency standards that lawmakers in Sacramento have been unwilling to meet themselves. His newsletter says the provisions of ACA 8 would, among other things, "stop the current situation in which the general public and even
legislators are kept in the dark about details of legislation until the
last possible moment."