OPEN MEETINGS — Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday signed legislation to update the open meeting law for state boards and commissions to tighten its prohibition against the use of serial meetings, reports the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) in its Legislative Bulletin.

AB 1494 by Assemblyman Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) amends the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting law to address a recent court decision affecting serial meetings of public bodies.  CNPA sponsored the bill.

AB 1494 amends the definition of “meeting” to state: 

A majority of the members of a state body shall not, outside of a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter of the state body. 

The bill follows legislation sponsored by CNPA last year — SB 1732 by Senator Gloria Romero (Chapter 63) – that made an identical amendment to the Ralph M. Brown Open Meeting Law.  AB 1494 would make the Bagley-Keene Act serial meeting prohibition identical to the Brown Act.

AB 1494 eliminates the impact on the Bagley-Keene Act of the California Appellate court decision of Wolfe v. City of Fremont, 144 Cal.App.4th 533 (2006).  Although the Wolfe decision interpreted the Brown Act’s serial meeting prohibition, that prohibition was identical to the current provision of the Bagley-Keene Act.  The Wolfe court said that serial communications among a majority of members do not violate the Brown Act unless the body actually reached a decision as a result of the communications.

CNPA staff thanks Assemblyman Eng and his staffer Dave Martin for skillfully moving AB 1494 to the governor.  The law becomes effective January 1, 2010.