Council Votes To Invoke AB 361 That Allows Public To Speak At Council Meetings via Computer/Phone
(Oct. 13, 2021, 5:10 a.m.) -- In less than ten seconds with no public discussion, the City Council voted 8-0 (Richardson absent) near the end of its Oct. 12 meeting to approve a resolution applying newly enacted AB 361 to LB Council meetings, whose provisions allow the public to speak at City Council meetings via teleconference using their home computer or telephone.
The Council-adopted resolution cites Sept. 30 recommendations by LB Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis, who recommended that the Council return to virtual (remote) public meetings, to the extent possible, to promote social distancing measures for the protection of the community, staff, presenters, and legislative body members.
In addition to allowing remote public testimony, AB 361 allows some public speaking rights greater than LB's Mayor/Council currently allow at in-person meetings; there's no artificial limit on the number of speakers on an agenda item or how long they can speak. ("The legislative body may not require public comments to be submitted in advance of the meeting, and it must provide an opportunity for the public to address the legislative body and offer comment in real time...If a legislative body provides a timed public comment period, it may not close the comment period or the time to register to provide comment...until the timed period has elapsed...")
In addition to Council meetings, AB 361 applies to city commissions, committees, boards and other bodies subject to the Brown Act.
The Council resolution includes a potential loophole, stating that:
City legislative bodies may have varying circumstances and considerations and, as such, hereby authorizes the Council, and City commissions, committees, boards, or other bodies subject to the Brown Act, to opt for in-person and/or hybrid (a combination of virtual and in-person) meetings to the extent possible, including but not limited to meetings that may be of a quasi-judicial nature or those bodies that have already been meeting in person as circumstances have allowed. Such meetings must comply (wherever feasible) with the Health Officer’s recommendation with respect to protocols for in-person meetings.
In exactly what ways LB Councilmembers (who ultimately set rules for running their meetings) will implement these new terms -- whether by returning to teleconferenced Council meetings or by implementing some type of hybrid rules or taking some other actions -- isn't immediately clear. Councilmembers didn't publicly discuss details on Oct . 12 and the specific implementing procedures remain to be seen.
To invoke AB 361's teleconference/remote meetings provisions the Council had to recite that it declared a state of emergency with measures to promote social distancing; or that meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health and safety of attendees; or as a result of the emergency meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees. The findings apply for 30 days, after which the Council must make monthly findings reconsidering the circumstances of the state of emergency and find that state or local officials continue to recommend or impose measures to promote social distancing.
The Council resolution recites in pertinent part:
WHEREAS, AB 361 includes key “waivers” of normal teleconferencing requirements including, but not limited to, the ability of a legislative body to allow public access and comment via phone or internet only...and
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In a September 30, 2021 memo to City Manager Tom Modica for the Mayor and Council, City of Long Beach Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis recommended returning to virtual (remote) public meetings, to the extent possible, to promote social distancing measures for the protection of the community, staff, presenters, and legislative body members.
[Dr. Davis Sept. 30 memo text]...One condition [of AB 361] to authorize such virtual meetings of legislative bodies is that state or local health officials have imposed or recommended measures to promote physical distancing during a proclaimed state of emergency. Accordingly, I am making the following recommendations for the City’s legislative bodies to meet virtually, to the extent possible, under the relevant provisions of AB 361, and that this recommendation be forwarded to those bodies.
On the Assembly floor, Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (D, LB-SP) voted "no" on AB 339 while Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D, NLB-Carson) voted "yes." LB area state Senators Lena Gonzalez and Tom Umberg voted "yes."
In his veto message, Governor Newsom stated:
I am returning Assembly Bill 339 without my signature.
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