BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 2720
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   May 7, 2014

                   ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION
                                 Isadore Hall, Chair
                     AB 2720 (Ting) - As Amended:  April 2, 2014
           
          SUBJECT  :   Public meetings.

           SUMMARY  :   Requires a state body to publicly report any action  
          taken and the vote or abstention on that action of each member  
          present for the action.  

           EXISTING LAW  

          1)Requires under the Bagley-Keene open Meeting Act (Bagley Act)  
            that all meetings of a state body be open and public and that  
            all persons be permitted to attend and participate in any  
            meeting of a state body.

          2)Defines a "state body" as each of the following:

             a)   Every state board, or commission, or similar multimember  
               body of the state that is created by statute or required by  
               law to conduct official meetings and every commission  
               created by executive order.

             b)   A board, commission, committee, or similar multimember  
               body that exercises any authority of a state body delegated  
               to it by that state body.

             c)   An advisory board, advisory commission, advisory  
               committee, advisory subcommittee, or similar multimember  
               advisory body of a state body, if created by formal action  
               of the state body or of any member of the state body, and  
               if the advisory body so created consists of three or more  
               persons.

             d)   A board, commission, committee, or similar multimember  
               body on which a member of a body that is a state body  
               pursuant to this sections serves in his or her official  
               capacity as a representative of that state body and that is  
               supported, in whole or in part, by funds provided by the  
               state body, whether the multimember body is organized and  
               operated by the state body or by a private corporation.









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          3)Defines "action taken" as a collective decision by the members  
            of a state body, a collective commitment or promise by the  
            members of the state body to make a positive or negative  
            decision or an actual vote by the members of a state body when  
            sitting as a body or entity upon a motion, proposal,  
            resolution, order or similar action.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   The bill is keyed non-fiscal by Legislative  
          Counsel.

           COMMENTS  :   

           Purpose of the bill  :  According to the author, current law  
          requires that the meetings of state boards and commissions be  
          open to the public, so that their deliberations and actions are  
          conducted in service of the public's interest.  However, there  
          is no specific requirement that actions taken by state boards  
          and commissions during regular meetings are publicly reported  
          and reveal vote or abstention of each member present for the  
          action.  Consequently, there are multiple examples of state  
          boards and commissions that do not make this important  
          information readily accessible to the public.  Final votes are  
          often reported, for example, as 20 Ayes and 10 Noes, making it  
          impossible to determine how individual members, who represent  
          different industry interests, voted on the action taken.  Some  
          votes do not even report the final vote numerically, only  
          reporting whether the action passed or failed.  If a member of  
          the public was not able to attend the meeting, then it is  
          impossible for that individual to be wholly informed about the  
          outcome of the action taken.

          AB 2720 would strengthen California's commitment to open and  
          transparent governance by requiring all state boards and  
          commissions to count, identify, and publicly disclose all votes  
          on actions taken during meetings.  This bill will ensure that  
          the public has complete information about the decisions made by  
          state bodies, so they are held accountable to the public  
          interest.

           Bagley-Keene Act  :  When the Legislature enacted the Bagley-Keene  
          Act of 1967 it essentially said that when a body sits down to  
          develop its consensus, there needs to be a seat at the table  
          reserved for the public.  In doing so, the Legislature has  
          provided the public with the ability to monitor and be part of  
          the decision-making process.  The Bagley Act explicitly mandates  








                                                                  AB 2720
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          open meetings for California State agencies, boards, and  
          commissions.  It facilitates transparency of government  
          activities and protects the rights of citizens to participate in  
          state government deliberations.  Therefore, absent a specific  
          reason to keep the public out of meetings, the public should be  
          allowed to monitor and participate in the decision-making  
          process.  Similarly, the California's Brown Act of 1953 protects  
          citizen's rights to open meetings at the local and county  
          government levels. 

           Ralph M. Brown Act (Brown Act)  :  While the Bagley Act ensures  
          open meetings at the state level, the Brown Act governs open  
          meetings at the local level.  Last year, the Legislature  
          unanimously approved and the Governor signed SB 751 (Yee), which  
          guaranteed that local agencies publicly report the vote of each  
          member of their governing bodies on actions taken.  AB 2720 will  
          make conforming changes to the Bagley Act to ensure that all  
          state boards and commissions are similarly held accountable to  
          the public they serve.

           Arguments in support  :  The California Taxpayers Association  
          (CalTax) states that all levels of government need to continue  
          to promote a transparent government.  Empowering people to  
          engage in government allows them to become stakeholders in the  
          political process.  Giving access, in turn, allows people to see  
          how their government is run, and how policymakers' decisions  
          will impact their lives.

          The California Newspaper Publishers Association states that the  
          need for AB 2720 arose when several state agencies governed by  
          the Bagley Act, failed to conduct either a roll call vote or a  
          specific tally and report the votes of each member of the  
          boards.  Consequently, constituents found it difficult, if not  
          impossible to determine who voted for or against a measure when  
          the agencies took action.  AB 2720 would prevent anonymous  
          voting by large agencies and would improve the ability of the  
          public and others who monitor legislative meetings of state  
          agencies to be certain of how members vote on an issue.  The  
          costs associated with the implementation of AB 2720 would be  
          minimal because the task of identifying how a member votes is a  
          simple one requiring little, if any, effort by the agency to  
          perform.

           Related legislation  : AB 2058 (Wilk), 2013-2014 Legislative  
          session. The bill would modify the definition of "state body" to  








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          clarify that standing committees, even if composed of less than  
          three members, are a "state body" for the purposes of the Bagley  
          Act. (Pending in Assembly Appropriations Committee)

           Prior legislation  : SB 751 (Yee), Chapter 257, Statutes of 2013.   
          The bill required local agencies to publicly report any action  
          taken and the vote or abstention of each member of a legislative  
          body.

          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          California Newspaper Publishers Association
          California Taxpayers Association

           Opposition 
           
          None on file
           
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Felipe Lopez / G. O. / (916) 319-2531