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Watchdog Group Launches Petition to Protect Brown Act

Californians Aware appeals to voters to help protect key provisions of the state's open-government law.

A Sacramento-based organization launched an online petition drive Sunday to amend the California constitution to ensure that municipal meeting agendas continue to be offered to the public.

In June, the state Legislature gave California cities and counties the option of not posting meeting agendas and other reports to save money. This action suspended a key provision of the 1953 Brown Act, which requires California cities, counties, school boards and special districts to follow a range of provisions in conducting their meetings openly.

On Sunday, Californians Aware launched a petition drive to place a proposition on the statewide ballot.

"Even though the law might not hold public officials accountable for no longer posting agendas or providing adequate descriptions of items on them, angry voters would hold them accountable," stated Californians Aware on its website. "Political exposure has always been a far more powerful motivator of Brown Act compliance than legal exposure."

A bill designed to preserve the Brown Act provisions is in limbo in the Assembly Appropriations Committee after the state Senate passed it.

The Brown Act requires neighborhood council agendas to be posted in five separate public places 72-hours in advance of any meeting, including those of sub-committes.

"Staying in compliance with the Brown Act makes organizations like the ERNC much less effective on the local level," President Michael Larsen said of the latest effort to revive certain elements of the law no longer in force. "I think all levels of government should be required to make their agendas and minutes available online, but posting them in various public places seems a bit antiquated."

Click here to read more about the online petition or to sign it.

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