AB 2257: New Brown Act Requirements for Meeting Agendas on Local Agency Websites Effective for Meetings Held on and after January 1, 2019
September 13, 2018
In 2016, the State Legislature enacted Assembly Bill 2257 (Government Code section 54954.2) to update the Ralph M. Brown Act with new requirements applicable to meeting agenda postings on local agency websites. The Brown Act, known as California’s open meetings law for local agencies, establishes minimum notice and access standards to ensure the public is adequately informed and able to participate in agency meetings.
Under current law, the legislative body of a local agency must post an agenda that specifies the time and location of an upcoming meeting and briefly describes the items of business to be discussed, at least 72 hours prior to a regular meeting or 24 hours before a special meeting. The agenda must be posted in a physical location that is freely accessible to members of the public and on the agency’s website, if it has one. For all meetings occurring on or after January 1, 2019, AB 2257 adds additional requirements governing the location, platform, and methods by which an agenda must be accessible on the agency’s website.
AB 2257 provides two options for compliance. Under the first option, an agency that maintains a website must post a direct link to the current agenda on its primary homepage. The link may not be placed in a “contextual menu,” such as a drop-down tab, that would require a user to perform an action to reveal the agenda link. Additionally, the agenda must be: (a) downloadable, indexable, and electronically searchable by common internet browsers; (b) platform independent and machine readable; and (c) available to the public, free of charge and without restrictions that might interfere with the reuse or redistribution of the agenda.
Under the second option, an agency may implement an “integrated agenda management platform,” meaning a dedicated webpage that provides the necessary agenda information. The platform may also contain prior agendas, but the most current agenda must be located at the top of the page. Under this option, a direct link to the current agenda does not need to be posted on the homepage; however, the agency is required to post a link to the platform containing the agenda information. Again, this link may not be hidden in a contextual menu. The new criteria governing retrieval, searching, and readability apply equally to an integrated agenda management platform.
The main change, as noted above, in the Brown Act’s requirements is that the agenda may not be placed in a “contextual menu.” Most agencies currently have agendas and related materials in such drop-down menus. It is important to make this change before January 1, 2019, as it will be obvious to even casual users of an agency’s webpage whether or not the agency has complied with the new standard.
The new website agenda standards take effect for all regular and special meetings occurring on or after January 1, 2019. As with the Brown Act’s requirement to post agendas electronically, the additional mandates of AB 2257 apply only if your agency maintains a website. Nothing about these changes to the Brown Act alter the fact that a local agency is not required to create or otherwise maintain a website if it does not already have one.
If you have any questions about this new requirement or would like assistance in confirming that your agency is in full compliance, we would be happy to help. Please contact any of the following Downey Brand attorneys: David Aladjem, David Cameron, Austin Cho, Andrea Clark, Scott Shapiro, or Rebecca Smith.