Bill to Address Public Meeting Disruptions Heads to Governor’s Desk

Senator Dave Cortese (D-Silicon Valley) and Assemblymember Evan Low’s (D-Silicon Valley) bill, SB 1100, to address the increased number of public meeting disruptions local governments are facing statewide is heading to the Governor’s desk after passing through the California Assembly Floor.

The Ralph M. Brown Act was originally enacted in 1953 to govern the conduct of public meetings for local legislative bodies, but many provisions in the Brown Act remain antiquated.

Last year, as local officials in Silicon Valley including AAPI public officials such as Los Gatos Mayor Marico Sayoc faced an increased number of targeted bullying and harassment efforts statewide, Senator Cortese and Assemblymember Low expressed their support for establishing mechanisms to address disruptions during public meetings that significantly interrupt public business.

By establishing common-sense mechanisms to deescalate significant disruptions and allow members of a legislative body to return to their important governmental business in a swift manner, SB 1100 would enhance public access to meetings and enhance the democratic process.

Senator Dave Cortese says: “When public meetings have to be called to an end early or entire meeting rooms of public attendees have to be cleared to deal with these disruptions, that hurts the democratic process as a whole. Public officials and attendees shouldn’t have to end their business early due to bullying, harassment, or violence. By employing common-sense measures that protect our first amendment rights, this bill will deescalate significant disruptions and allow us to return to our important government business at hand.”

Assemblymember Evan Low says: “Hate speech, threats, bullying, harassment, and intimidation at public meetings are absolutely unacceptable. I am proud to work with Senator Cortese to give our local governments the tools to counteract disruptive behaviors to ensure public meetings are safe and accessible to all.”  

Marico Sayoc, Los Gatos Councilmember says: “SB 1100 would have helped me and my family when faced with intense and concentrated harassment attempts at public Council meetings. I am hopeful that this bill will keep people safe in the future – those just trying to conduct business for the public good – and will ensure individuals, and especially women, continue to step up and serve in office without fear of harassment and violence at their public meetings.”

The California State Association of Counties and the Urban Counties of California says: “As co-sponsors of SB 1100 (Cortese), the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and the Urban Counties of California (UCC) applaud the California State Assembly’s support for orderly conduct in public meetings. Senator Cortese’s measure will clarify when the removal of individuals who are actually disrupting local agency public meetings is necessary. This measure will help local agencies address an unfortunate, but notable, increase in disruptive behavior, hate speech, intimidation, and threats against local elected officials, staff, and members of the public with opposing views. Counties administer many public meetings subject to the Brown Act, such as board of supervisors' meetings, planning commission meetings, and behavioral health, maternal health, veterans, and youth advisory commissions, to name a few. This important clarification to the Brown Act will help local agencies ensure that public meetings are safe and accessible to all members of the public. Accordingly, SB 1100 provides helpful guidance for local agencies as to how to manage disruptive behavior in a manner consistent with case law while safeguarding the public’s right to address its elected and appointed leaders in public meetings under reasonable conduct requirements.

SB 1100 is supported by dozens of progressive groups across the state including Indivisible California: State Strong, as well as local government associations such as the Association of California Water Agencies, the California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions, the California Contract Cities Association, and the California Special Districts Association. SB 1100 is sponsored by the California State Association of Counties and the Urban Counties of California.