AB 557:  Zooming In on the Brown Act


On October 8, 2023, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 557 (Hart) (“AB 557”) into law, amending certain portions of the Ralph M. Brown Act (“Brown Act”) relating to teleconference participation by members of legislative bodies for and during public meetings. 

In summary, AB 557: (1) eliminates the sunset date for Assembly Bill 361 (“AB 361”) teleconferencing provisions; (2) amends existing teleconference requirements set forth in Government Code section 54953 to extend the previous 30-day findings a legislative body (as described below) to a finding every 45 days; (3) eliminates references to “social distancing” in Government Code section 54953; and (4)  effective January 1, 2026, eliminates previously enacted teleconferencing alternatives per Assembly Bill 2449 (“AB 2449”).

Current Brown Act Teleconferencing Rules

Traditionally, if a member of a legislative body would like to participate via teleconferencing, the Brown Act generally requires the following: (1) posting agendas at all teleconference locations; (2) identifying each teleconference location in the notice and agenda of the meeting; (3) making each teleconference location accessible to the public; and (4) during the teleconference, at least a quorum of the members of the legislative body shall participate from locations within the boundaries of the territory of the local agency (collectively, “Traditional Teleconference Rules”).

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature enacted alternative and expanded teleconferencing opportunities through AB 361 and AB 2449

Pursuant to AB 361, members of legislative bodies are authorized to utilize teleconferencing for public meetings during a proclaimed state of emergency and if any of the following circumstances exist: (1) state or local officials have imposed or recommended measures to promote social distancing; (2) the legislative body is meeting for the purpose of determining whether, as a result of emergency, meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees; or (3) the legislative body has previously made such determination. 

AB 361 required that a legislative body verify every 30 days that alternative teleconferencing procedures during a declared state of emergency, as described above, are still necessary.  In this verification process, the legislative body must have made findings no later than 30 days after the first teleconference and every 30 days thereafter that: (1) the legislative body has reconsidered the circumstances of the state of emergency, and (2) the state of emergency continues to directly impact the ability of the members to meet safely in person.  Based on these findings, the legislative body could either continue or cease meeting under the method of alternative teleconference rules.

In addition to the Traditional Teleconference Rules and AB 361, AB 2449 authorizes a member of a legislative body to participate in a public meeting remotely if “emergency circumstances” or “just cause” exists. For more information on AB 2449, please see our alert here.  

Changes Made to Brown Act Teleconferencing Rules by AB 557

Traditional Teleconferencing Rules remain unaffected by the enactment of AB 557.  However, effective January 1, 2024, AB 557 eliminates the sunset date of AB 361 and removes any references to social distancing contained in Government Code section 54953.  Thus, teleconferencing rules per AB 361 may be utilized, without a sunset date, by members of a legislative body when the Governor has proclaimed a state of emergency in a local agency’s jurisdictional boundaries or statewide when specified circumstances exist.

AB 557 also extends the period of time that the legislative body can verify that the alternative procedures from the Traditional Teleconference Rules during a declared state of emergency is still necessary.  The legislative body must make findings no later than 45 days (as opposed to 30 days) after the first teleconference and every 45 days thereafter that: (1) the legislative body has reconsidered the circumstances of the state of emergency, and (2) the state of emergency continues to directly impact the ability of the members to meet safely in person.  AB 557 eliminated the reference to social distancing.  

Beginning January 1, 2026, AB 557 also eliminates the ability of a member of a legislative body to teleconference into public meetings due to “emergency circumstances” or “just cause” pursuant to AB 2449. 

We strongly encourage those who have further questions about the new changes brought by AB 557 to reach out and confer with legal counsel.

Special thanks to Farrah Ghaffarirafi, our FCPPG law clerk, for her extensive work on this alert.

This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. AALRR is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process. 

© 2023 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo 



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