Brown Act Amendments Change Online Agenda Requirements for 2019
The Ralph M. Brown Act governs the conduct of meetings of public agency legislative bodies, including notice requirements for such meetings. Under the Brown Act, public agencies are required to post an agenda identifying each business item to be discussed or transacted at that meeting of the legislative body. (Government Code § 54954.2.) Agendas must be posted in a location freely accessible to members of the public and, as relevant here, on the local agency’s website.
In 2016, the Legislature amended section 54954.2 to clarify the requirements of posting a legislative body’s current agenda on the website of a local agency. Specifically, a legislative body of a city, county, city and county, special district, school or college district, or political subdivision established by the state that maintains a website is mandated to post a prominent, direct link of its current agenda for meetings occurring on or after January 1, 2019. Except as discussed below, the direct link must be to the agenda itself, as opposed to a link to a list of current and previous agendas. We recommend that the direct link be titled, “CURRENT BOARD AGENDA” as a separate and noticeable button or tab on a local agency’s website homepage. The direct link cannot be hidden within a contextual menu (e.g., a dropdown menu); however, in addition to the direct link to a current agenda, the agenda may be accessible through a contextual menu.
Agendas posted online must be posted in an open format that is: (1) retrievable, downloadable, indexable, and electronically searchable by commonly used Internet search applications; (2) platform independent and machine readable; and (3) available to the public free of charge and without any restriction that would impede the reuse or redistribution of the agenda.
Additionally, section 54954.2 recognizes that certain local agencies may utilize an “integrated agenda management platform” to post agendas online. An “integrated agenda management platform” is defined as a website providing the entirety of the agenda information for the legislative body of the local agency. The integrated agenda management platform need not be provided through a third-party software or provider (such as www.agendaonline.net); it can be an area of a local agency’s website dedicated solely to listing and linking full legislative body agendas. If an integrated agenda management platform is maintained, a legislative body does not have to provide a direct link of its current agenda on its homepage if the following conditions are met:
- A direct link to the integrated agenda management platform is posted on the homepage of the agency’s website. The direct link to the integrated agenda management platform cannot be hidden within a contextual menu. When a website visitor clicks on the direct link to the integrated agenda management platform, the direct link must take the user directly to the website of agendas.
- The integrated agenda management platform may contain prior agendas for legislative body meetings occurring on or after January 1, 2019.
- The current agenda of the legislative body must be the first agenda available at the top of the integrated agenda management platform.
These changes are effective for meetings occurring on or after January 1, 2019. Although many local agencies already comply with the online agenda requirements using third party providers, it is worth looking carefully at the new homepage direct link requirement to ensure full, ongoing compliance. If you have any questions regarding these matters, please contact our firm.