BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 1787


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          CONCURRENCE IN SENATE AMENDMENTS


          AB  
          1787 (Gomez)


          As Amended  August 2, 2016


          Majority vote


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              (vote not relevant)




          Original Committee Reference:  L. GOV.


          SUMMARY:  Requires local agencies to provide twice the allotted  
          time for public comment to speakers who require translation  
          services.


          The Senate amendments delete the prior contents of the bill and  
          add the current language.


          EXISTING LAW:  


          1)Requires, pursuant to the Ralph M. Brown Act (Brown Act), all  
            meetings of a legislative body of a local agency to be open  
            and public and all persons be permitted to attend, with  








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            specified exceptions.


          2)Requires every agenda for regular meetings and every notice  
            for special meetings to provide an opportunity for members of  
            the public to directly address the legislative body on any  
            item of interest to the public, before or during the  
            legislative body's consideration of the item, that is within  
            the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body, as  
            specified.


          3)Allows the legislative body of a local agency to adopt  
            reasonable regulations to ensure that the intent of 2) above,  
            is carried out, including, but not limited to, regulations  
            limiting the total amount of time allocated for public  
            testimony on particular issues and for each individual  
            speaker.


          4)Prohibits the legislative body of a local agency from  
            prohibiting public criticism of the policies, procedures,  
            programs, or services of the agency, or of the acts or  
            omissions of the local legislative body, and provides that  
            nothing in this provision shall confer any privilege or  
            protection for expression beyond that otherwise provided by  
            law.


          5)Requires, pursuant to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act  
            (Bagley-Keene Act), state bodies to provide at least twice as  
            much time to any individual using a translator when the body  
            limits testimony, unless the body uses simultaneous  
            translation technology that allows the body to hear the  
            translation simultaneously.


          FISCAL EFFECT:  According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee, pursuant to Senate Rule 28.8, negligible state costs.


          COMMENTS:  








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          1)Bill Summary.  This bill requires the legislative body of a  
            local agency that limits time for public comment to provide at  
            least twice the allotted time to a member of the public who  
            utilizes a translator, to ensure that non-English speakers  
            receive the same opportunity to directly address the  
            legislative body of a local agency.
            This bill's provisions do not apply if the legislative body  
            utilizes simultaneous translation equipment in a manner that  
            allows the legislative body to hear the translated public  
            testimony simultaneously.


            This bill is sponsored by the author.


          2)Author's Statement.  According to the author, "AB 1787  
            requires local public agencies that limit time for public  
            comment to provide at least twice the allotted time to a  
            member of the public who uses a translator to ensure that  
            non-English speakers receive an equal opportunity to directly  
            address their representatives.  Our democracy and communities  
            can only thrive when our diverse constituencies have the equal  
            opportunity to participate in civic discourse and shape the  
            decisions that affect their neighborhoods and lives."


          3)Background.  The Brown Act and the Bagley-Keene Act generally  
            require state and local agencies to hold open meetings,  
            publicly notice their meetings, prepare agendas, accept public  
            testimony, and conduct their meetings in public, with specific  
            exceptions.  State and local agencies must provide the public  
            with the opportunity to comment on each agenda item and may  
            adopt reasonable rules to ensure equal access.  


            In 2012, the Legislature amended the Bagley-Keene Act to  
            require a state body to provide at least twice as much time to  
            any individual using a translator when the body limits  
            testimony, unless the body uses simultaneous translation  
            technology that allows the body to hear the translation  








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            simultaneously.  The Brown Act does not contain such a  
            provision.  This bill would amend the Brown Act to require  
            local agencies to comply with this requirement.


            This bill was prompted by public meetings held in 2009 in  
            Kings County during the process of expanding a hazardous waste  
            facility near Kettleman City.  English speakers were allotted  
            a maximum of five minutes to provide public comment.  However,  
            non-English speakers were allowed only two and a half minutes  
            to comment, with the remaining time allotted for translation.


          4)Proposition 42.  Proposition 42 was passed by voters on June  
            3, 2014, and requires all local governments to comply with the  
            California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act and  
            with any subsequent changes to those Acts.  Proposition 42  
            also eliminated reimbursement to local agencies for costs of  
            complying with the California Public Records Act and the Ralph  
            M. Brown Act.


            This bill contains language that says that the Legislature  
            finds and declares that Section 1 of the bill furthers the  
            purpose of the California Constitution as it relates to the  
            right of public access to the meetings of local public bodies  
            or the writings of local public officials and local agencies.   
            Pursuant to Constitution Article 1 Section 3 subdivision (b)  
            paragraph (7), this bill also includes a finding that says  
            that "Because this act restricts the authority of a  
            legislative body of a local agency under the Ralph M. Brown  
            Act to limit time for public comment by a speaker who uses a  
            translator, the act furthers the purpose of Section 3 of  
            Article I of the California Constitution." 


            Section 3 of the bill specifies that no reimbursement is  
            required by this bill because "the only costs that may be  
            incurred by a local agency or school district?would result  
            from a legislative mandate that is within the scope of  
            paragraph (7) of subdivision (b) of Section 3 of Article I of  
            the California Constitution."








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          5)Previous Legislation.  AB 194 (Campos) of 2014 would have  
            revised and expanded the Brown Act's provisions that require  
            local legislative bodies to allow public comment and public  
            criticism at regular and special meetings, including a  
            prohibition against counting time spent questioning or  
            interrupting a speaker if a legislative body limits the amount  
            of time allocated for public testimony.  AB 194 was vetoed by  
            the Governor, with the following veto message:


               This bill amends the Ralph M. Brown Act to allow  
               individuals who attend local agency meetings to speak  
               before and during an agenda item, a common practice.  The  
               bill restates that local agencies shall not prohibit public  
               criticism at meetings.  Finally, the bill prescribes how  
               time should be allotted to each speaker.  California has  
               robust policies and longstanding laws in place that promote  
               an open and transparent government and guarantee public  
               decision making.  This bill adds certain procedures to the  
               Brown Act, which at best will elongate but in no way  
               enhance the quality of debate at the local level.


            AB 1330 (Perez) of 2014 would have prohibited local agencies  
            that limit testimony from counting the testimony of  
            translators towards the allotted speaking time for non-English  
            speakers, in addition to other requirements.  AB 1330 was held  
            in the Senate Rules Committee.  


            SB 965 (Wright), Chapter 551, Statutes of 2012, amended the  
            Bagley-Keene Act to require a state body to provide at least  
            twice as much time to any individual using a translator when  
            the body limits testimony, unless the body uses simultaneous  
            translation technology that allows the body to hear the  
            translation simultaneously.


          6)Support Arguments.  The League of California Cities, the  
            California State Association of Counties, and the California  








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            Special Districts Association, in support, state, "Under the  
            Ralph M. Brown Act, local legislative bodies are required to  
            provide an opportunity for members of the public to comment on  
            any points mentioned in the meeting agenda.  The act  
            authorizes legislative bodies to reasonably limit the time for  
            each individual public speaker.  If not accommodated,  
            individuals who need to utilize a translator may be  
            disadvantaged by time restrictions.  AB 1787 addresses this  
            issue by requiring the legislative body to provide at least  
            twice the allotted time to members of the public who need a  
            translator to address legislative bodies.  Providing the  
            public with equal access to their government is a cornerstone  
            of modern democracy.  Not speaking English should not prevent  
            some members of the public from having their voices equally  
            heard by their legislative bodies."


          7)Opposition Arguments.  None on file.


          8)Gut and Amend.  The subject matter of this bill has not been  
            heard in any Assembly policy committee this legislative  
            session.


          Analysis Prepared by:                                             
                          Angela Mapp / L. GOV. / (916) 319-3958  FN:  
          0003917