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A&A: What meetings are governed by CA Proposition 54?

Q:  Does CA Proposition 54 cover bodies like county Human Rights Commissions? Mine is trying to say that they are exempt from the requirement to make an audio recording of meetings because: “The Commission doesn’t have the power to vote or passing laws.” I’m told they are just an advisory group to the Board of Supervisors but their agendas are full of action items which are acted upon.

A:  My understanding is that Prop. 54 only applies to the state legislature, and not local legislative bodies such as city councils, county board of supervisors, planning commissions, etc.  Rather, the Brown Act would govern notices, agendas and meetings of those legislative bodies.  Whether a county human rights commission is subject to the Brown Act’s many requirements (all of which are intended to provide substantial access to the governmental decision-making process) would depend on whether the commission meets the definition of a “legislative body” under the Brown Act.

Section 54952 of the Government Code defines “legislative body” to mean, among other things:

a.        The governing body of a local agency or any other local body created by state or federal statute.

b.        A commission, committee, board, or other body of a local agency, whether permanent or temporary, decision-making or advisory, created by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body.  However, advisory committees, composed solely of the members of the legislative body that are less than a quorum of the legislative body are not legislative bodies, except that standing committees of a legislative body, irrespective of their composition, which have a continuing subject matter jurisdiction, or a meeting schedule fixed by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body are legislative bodies for purposes of this chapter.

If the commission comes within the definition of “legislative body” per the above, then it would not seem to matter that it does not necessarily vote on matters.  Per the above, even “advisory” bodies are subject to the Brown Act’s open meeting requirements.  Thus, if the commission is governed by the Brown Act, then it must, among other things, only discuss and/or take action on those items that are listed on the agenda, which must be posted at least 72 hours before the meeting.  Gov’t Code 54952.2(a).

You can learn more about the Brown Act under the Open Meeting tab.

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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