Bill that would loosen teleconference requirements for state agencies amended, passed out of Assembly

Legislation that would have allowed officials of state agencies covered by the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act to hide from the public where they are located when they participate in teleconference meetings was amended in committee this week to address concerns raised by CNPA. The Assembly Governmental Organization Committee then passed the bill out on a unanimously 20-0 vote.

AB 2958 by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), was introduced to “modernize” the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act and would have eliminated the requirement in existing law that a state agency identify on its meeting agenda every location where members participate remotely in a teleconferenced meeting. The bill would also repeal a provision in the current law which requires each member joining the teleconferenced meeting from a remote location to allow members of the public to participate from each location.

Instead of requiring the location to be identified on the meeting agenda the bill would require the body to provide separate notice at least 24 hours before the meeting that members would be participating remotely. The bill would not require the members joining remotely to identify their location.

The committee’s amendments would only apply the new standards to advisory committees of a state agency and, in order to use the new standards, at least a quorum of the members of the advisory committee would have to participate live in a physical location accessible by members of the public and that location would be required to be listed on the agenda. Moreover, agencies would be required to inform members of the public how they can participate in the teleconference via a web site or a call-in number.

CNPA will continue to work with the author to amend the bill further to protect public access with the goal of removing its opposition.

The bill will next be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee sometime in the next few weeks.