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Newsom Signs Bill to Extend Remote Government Meetings

Published on Monday, September 20, 2021 | 5:00 am
 
Gov. Gavin Newsom

Legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom will allow the Pasadena City Council and other local government councils, boards, commissions, and committees to continue meeting remotely. 

Assembly Bill 361 provides state agencies and local legislative bodies the flexibility to meet remotely during emergencies, such as wildfires and pandemics. 

Pasadena City Council members have been meeting in council chambers since July.

The bill allows for continued virtual meetings as long as the emergency continues. Real-time public comments must be allowed, which the city is already doing. The law goes into effect immediately.

Newsom’s executive order allowing virtual meetings and suspending parts of the Brown Act, which governs open meetings of legislative bodies, is due to sunset on Sept. 30.

Before the law was enacted, local governments worried about the gap between the executive order (EO) expiring and AB 361 becoming law,  leaving local governments wondering what to do this fall if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

This legislation, authored by Assemblymember Robert Rivas, D-Salinas, will ensure the delivery of essential government services to Californians in times of crisis while maintaining high levels of transparency and public access.

“State agencies and local legislative bodies provide essential services like water, power, and fire protection – it’s critical that the public be safely engaged regardless of emergency conditions,” Rivas said. 

“AB 361 will enable these bodies to continue serving their constituents remotely while requiring that the public can join the meeting either via telephone or videoconference,” Rivas said. 

“I am thankful that Gov. Newsom has signed this bill into law, which will take effect immediately as we experience another record-breaking wildfire season and more COVID-19 variants.”

The last time Pasadena council members were allowed into the chambers was on March 15, 2020. At that meeting, only two council members appeared in the council chambers. Members of the public were allowed inside the council chambers which had an ample supply of hand sanitizer and chairs placed six feet apart. The sergeant at arms wore a face mask during that 2 p.m. meeting.

Several days later, the city went into lockdown under city and state emergency orders modifying the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law.

Although council meetings continued via Zoom, committee and commission meetings were shuttered for several months.

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