Brown Act


Brown Act

The Brown Act, officially known as the Ralph M. Brown Act (California Government Code sections 54950-54963 [http://www.cfac.org/Law/BrownAct/Text/ba_text.html] ), authored by Ralph M. Brown, an Assemblyman from Turlock, was enacted in 1953 by the California State Legislature in an effort to safeguard the public's ability to obtain access to and participate in local government meetings and deliberations.

The Brown Act, originally a 686 word statute that has grown substantially over the years, was enacted in response to mounting public concerns over informal, undisclosed meetings held by local elected officials. City councils, county boards, and other local government bodies were avoiding public scrutiny by holding secret 'workshops' and 'study sessions.' The Brown Act solely applies to California city and county government agencies, boards, and councils. The comparable Bagley-Keane Act mandates open meetings for State government agencies.

Intent of legislation

The introduction to the Brown Act describes its purpose and intent::"In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created." (California Government Code section 54960 [http://www.cfac.org/Law/BrownAct/Text/ba_text.html] ).

Original enactment

In October, 1952, a "Sacramento Bee" editorial opined::"A law to prohibit secret meetings of official bodies, save under the most exceptional circumstances, should not be necessary. Public officers above all other persons should be imbued with the truth that their business is the public’s business and they should be the last to tolerate any attempt to keep the people from being fully informed as to what is going on in official agencies. Unfortunately, however, that is not always the case. Instances are many in which officials have contrived, deliberately and shamefully, to operate in a vacuum of secrecy."

Fiftieth anniversary

Supporters of the Brown Act say it still lacks enforcement, contending the law has been eroded by court decisions and government officials' efforts to block access to records. "The unfulfilled promise, I'm afraid, that 50 years has revealed, is enforcement," commented Terry Francke, of the California First Amendment Coalition, on the 50th anniversary of the bill's passage in 2003.

Brown Act Sections

:* Title and definitions :* Adjourned or continued meetings:* Closed sessions:* Documents at meetings are public:* Emergency situations:* Electronic Communications:* Public is not required to provide their name or any information:* No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not on the agenda:* Notice of meetings:* Open Meetings:* Penalty to deprive the public of information:* Public comment:* Public criticism allowed:* Recording the proceedings -You have the right:* Reports of closed session actions:* Special meetings:* Taxes:* Time limits for public testimony:* When it does apply :* When it does not apply:* Willfully interrupting a meeting

ee also

* California First Amendment Coalition (cfac.org)
* Californians Aware
* California government and politics
* Conflict of interest
* Freedom of Information Act
* Sunshine law
* Transparency (humanities) (metaphorical term, also related to politics)

References

* [http://www.cfac.org/Law/BrownAct/Text/ba_text.html CFAC.org] - 'Ralph M. Brown Act: California Government Code Sections 54950 et seq.'
* [http://ag.ca.gov/publications/2003_Intro_BrownAct.pdf 2003_Intro_BrownAct.pdf] - 'The Brown Act: Open Meetings for Local Legislative Bodies', California Attorney General Bill Lockyer (2003)

External links

* [http://www.cfac.org/ CFAC.org] - 'California First Amendment Coalition: Protecting & Defending California's Right to Know Since 1988'
* [http://www.cnpa.com/calander/brown.htm CNPA.com] - 'Ralph M. Brown Act: 1953-2003 50th Anniversary: Brown Act and Beyond'
* [http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/6216901.htm Contra Costa Times] - 'Brown Act backers say laws need teeth', Don Thompson (AP), "Contra Costa Times" (July 2, 2003)
* [http://www.fas.org/sgp/ FAS.org] - 'Project on Government Secrecy', Federation of American Scientists
* [http://www.vanguardnews.com/brownact.htm VanguardNews.com] - 'The Brown Act: California Codes Government Code Section 54950-54963 (August 28, 2004)
* [http://www.rcfp.org/cgi-local/tapping/index.cgi?key=CA RCFP.org] - 'The Door to Open Government in California', Duffy Carolan, Esq., Selena Poon Ontiveros, Esq., The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press


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