Upcoming Changes to California’s Open Meeting Laws

Three bills recently signed by the governor will bring changes to the Brown Act beginning January 1, 2014. The Brown Act governs the conduct of public agency meetings and imposes a variety of requirements to maintain openness and transparency in government. (See Govt. Code §54950, et seq.)

The first and most noteworthy change alters voting procedures. Senate Bill 751 will require that “the legislative body of a local agency publicly report any action taken and the vote or abstention on that action of each member present for the action.” (To be added as Govt. Code §54953(c)(2).) Currently, many agencies record the vote of the legislative body on some actions only in terms of the ratio, such as 5 to 1 in favor or 4 to 1 against. SB 751 will require that the individual votes and abstentions of each member of the legislative body on each action be reported. The legislative history of the bill indicates that the primary reason for this change in the law is to prevent large agency legislative bodies from obscuring the votes of each member on actions taken in open session by only reporting the vote in blocks.

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