A&A: Is there an open meeting law that covers the CA legislature?

Q: It seems like neither the Brown Act nor Bagley-Keene applies to the California legislature. What law governs the process through which the state legislature, including committees, considers laws and informs the public of opportunity to comment at hearings. And are there laws that prevent a committee for adding a last-minute amendment (without notice) to a bill that has little connection to the original bill? Thank you!

A: You are correct that neither the Brown Act nor Bagley-Keene Act applies to the California legislature.  The Grunsky-Burton Open Meeting Act passed in 1989, however, does require “all meetings of a house of the Legislature or a committee thereof shall be open and public” unless specifically exempted.  Govt. Code § 9027.

Committee includes “a standing committee, joint committee, conference committee, subcommittee, select committee, special committee, research committee, or any similar body.”  Id.  All meetings of the California legislature or any committee thereof, whether open or closed, requires full and timely notice to the public in accordance with the Joint Rule of the Assembly and Senate.  Govt. Code § 9028.

The legislature may only hold a meeting in closed session in order to consider the appointment or evaluation of an employee, to consider matters that impact the safety of members of the legislature, or to confer with counsel.  Govt. Code § 9029.  Additionally, a party caucus may meet in closed session.  Id.

It does not appear that the Grunsky-Orton Act prevents a legislative committee from adding a last-minute amendment to a bill even if the amendment is a rider with little or no connection to the original bill.  Unfortunately, last minute amendments are a common reality of the legislative process.

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.

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