Legislation that would allow a majority of members of a local agency to communicate with constituents as well as each other via Facebook or Twitter was passed out of the Assembly Local Government Committee this week on a 5-3 vote.

AB 992 by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) would allow the use of internet-based social media platforms by a majority of the members of a legislative body, provided that they do not discuss among themselves business within the subject matter jurisdiction of the local agency.

In prohibiting these discussions, however, the bill, also exempts certain communications from the prohibition in the definition of “Discuss among themselves” which undermines the serial meeting prohibition.

The bill provides “Discuss among themselves” would not include:
(i) Individual communications made, posted, or shared by one or more members of a legislative body on an internet-based social media platform, provided that the communications do not respond directly to communications made, posted, or shared by any other member of the legislative body.
(ii) Communications made through the use of digital icons that express reactions to information, ideas, or opinions by others.

The use of social media is a potentially effective tool for constituents to use to communicate with their elected officials and there is pressure to update the Brown Act to recognize this.

A friend of the newspaper industry, Assemblyman Mullin said he is committed to ensure the bill complies with the purpose of the Brown Act and intends to work with CNPA and all interested stakeholders to reach consensus on language that would strike an appropriate balance. Mullin also pledged that he would not move forward with a bill if consensus could not be reached.