AB 557: Extended Use of Emergency Remote Meetings

Assembly Bill (“AB”) 557 (Hart), signed by Governor Newsom on October 8, 2023, indefinitely extends emergency remote meeting procedures used during the COVID-19 pandemic under the Ralph M. Brown Act (the “Brown Act”). The bill was sponsored by the California Special Districts Association, the California State Association of Counties, the League of California Cities, and the California School Boards Association.

AB 557 builds on an earlier bill, Assembly Bill 361 (“AB 361”), which allows local agencies to meet remotely during certain states of emergency using modified Brown Act meeting procedures. AB 361 was set to expire at the end of 2023, but AB 557 strikes down this sunset provision. Specifically, the bill permits teleconferencing when (1) the legislative body meets for the purpose of determining whether, as a result of the emergency, meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees, or (2) has previously made that determination. AB 557 also extends the period for a legislative body to make such findings related to a continuing state of emergency to no later than 45 days after the first teleconferenced meeting, and every 45 days thereafter, in order to continue to meet under the revised Brown Act procedures. This change responds to concerns raised by the California Special Districts Association and other public agencies that have fixed meeting dates, causing the previous 30-day period to lapse in between some meetings.

AB 557 also eliminates explicit references to social distancing measures in Government Code section 54953, subsections (e)(1)(A) and (e)(3), but all policies regarding states of emergency remain unchanged. Moreover, effective January 1, 2026, AB 557 rescinds the ability of a member of a legislative body to join public meetings remotely due to “emergency circumstances” or “just cause” pursuant to Assembly Bill 2449.

AB 557 becomes effective January 1, 2024.

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For further information please contact Elena Gerlia or Joshua Imeri-Garica of Aleshire & Wynder, LLP. Thier information is below. 

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