New Law Mandates That Special Districts Maintain Public Websites by January 2020; Limited Exemptions Available

Public Agency  

February 13, 2019

In late 2018, Governor Brown signed SB 929 (Maguire) into law, which mandated that all independent special districts in the state of California maintain an internet website consistent with all existing legal requirements for public agency websites no later than January 1, 2020. Though the requirement to create and maintain a website applies to public agencies of all sizes, affected entities may adopt a resolution on an annual basis identifying certain hardships that merit the agency’s exemption from the general requirement.

This update follows close on the heels of another local agency transparency measure: as of January 1, 2019, special districts that maintain websites must include certain statutorily-mandated categories of documents (including agendas, elected official compensation, and financial reports) in an appropriate and searchable format on that website. For additional information about those requirements, see our Legal Alert from September 13, 2018. New websites created in an effort to comply with SB 929 will be subject to these pre-existing requirements.

To avail itself of a hardship exemption in any given year, a district must adopt a resolution detailing the particular hardship (significantly limited financial resources; insufficient staff resources; and inadequate access to broadband communications network facilities that enable high-speed internet access are each named as potential bases for exemption in the statute). Continuing exemption from the website requirement requires a district to adopt a new resolution of hardship annually, for as long as the hardship exists.

The full text of SB 929, including the language of the new Government Code sections, is available here. Agencies without a current web presence should plan for implementation or a hardship exemption before the law’s effective date in January 2020.

Downey Brand attorneys are available to answer your questions about this new requirement, and to provide assistance in confirming that your agency is in full compliance.  We look forward to discussing this issue with you.