URGENT: Updated Executive Order Further Relaxes Public Meeting Requirements Due to COVID-19
by Steven Graham on March 18, 2020
posted in Meetings,
On March 17, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order No. N-29-20 concerning COVID-19 (the “coronavirus”) that, among other things, supersedes the provisions of Executive Order No. N-25-20 related to partial suspensions of the Brown Act. This previous order and its effect on local agencies was covered in our previous blog post.
The new executive order suspends portions of the Brown Act to allow local government to implement recommended or imposed social distancing measures to prevent or slow the spread of the coronavirus. In particular:
- Members of the local legislative body are no longer required to be physically present at the meeting location, or within the jurisdiction, for quorum or public meeting purposes and may appear telephonically.
- The local agency is not required to post notice of teleconference locations to be used by members of the legislative body, to make those locations open to the public, or to allow public comment from the teleconference locations.
The legislative body must still allow the public to observe and offer public comment during the meeting, but is no longer required to provide a physical location for these activities to occur. The legislative body may allow observation and public comment telephonically or electronically, so long as:
- The method of observation and public comment includes a procedure for receiving and swiftly resolving requests for reasonable modification or accommodation to allow individuals with disabilities; and
- When the legislative body gives notice of the meetings in the manner required by the Brown Act, the legislative body must include notice of the means by which the public may observe and offer public comment.
The suspension of portions of the Brown Act shall apply only during the period when state or local health officials have recommended or imposed social distancing measures.
The bottom line: Our previous recommendation remains the same. It is important that your agency act immediately to modify its meeting practices to address the current and serious public-health concerns that exist. You should immediately consider whether to take advantage of the expanded teleconferencing opportunity the Governor’s Executive Order provides. And you should immediately implement all measures necessary to ensure appropriate “social distancing” in your public meetings. As demonstrated by the changes between March 12, 2020 and March 17, 2020, changes to how local agencies do business are occurring rapidly.