Today, AB 339 to preserve the public’s access to remote participation by Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose) crossed its final hurdle and is headed to the Governor for signature. The bill is headed to the Governor’s desk ahead of the September 30 expiration of the Governor’s Executive Order N-29-20 (which allows local and state agencies to hold virtual meetings via teleconference).
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a significant increase in public participation and political engagement in government meetings with online teleconferencing options,” said Lee. “Having your voice heard during legislative hearings or city council meetings has often been limited to those who are able to take time out of their busy days to travel to meetings to speak in-person – During the pandemic, we’ve seen local governments adopt new technologies, and I’m proud to fight for the continued utilization of these important tools so that ALL voices can be at the table.”
During the pandemic, teleconferenced meetings have provided a unique opportunity for Californians across the state to better participate in both local and statewide government meetings. Online access to public meetings also benefits those who traditionally face obstacles in interacting with state government, such as low-income people, rural Californians, working parents, and people with physical disabilities.
In July, the Little Hoover Commission, an independent oversight agency charged with recommending ways to improve state government, released a report titled “The Government of Tomorrow: Online Meetings” advocating for the continued use of remote participation for government meetings. According to the report, allowing remote participation in meetings is a simple, cheap, and manageable reform that will make California government more accessible and more transparent.
“While this bill only applies to cities and counties with populations larger than 250,000, this is an important first step in modernizing the Brown Act,” said Lee.
Assemblymember Lee intends to continue to modernize the Brown Act and work with jurisdictions of all types and sizes in order to expand digital civic participation in the next legislative session.