California Brown Act Amended (effective January 1, 2014)
SB 751 – Reporting of Each Member’s Vote
SB 751 amends the California Open Meeting Law (Brown Act) to require the votes (or abstentions) of each member of a board under the Brown Act to be reported publicly (and in the minutes). The total of ‘ayes’ and ‘noes’ no longer provides enough public transparency.
The transparency is necessary at the meeting in front of the public, as well as in the minutes for future access by the public. This reporting is similar to that which is already required of closed sessions and teleconference meetings when such are authorized.
The wording of the SB 751 amendment is as follows:
“54953 (c)(2) The legislative body of a local agency shall publicly report any action taken and the vote or abstention on that action of each member present for the action.”
- Roll Call: Though a clear option, the amendment does not limit the publicly reported voting results to this method due to the excessive consumption of time.
- “If there is no objection”: As long as attendance is included in the minutes, the Presiding Officer could use this effective approach adding that the action was decide with unanimous consent. Unless someone objects, the resulting unanimous consent indicates that everyone on the attendance list voted in favor of the action.
- Voice Vote: The traditional Voice Vote would suffice if the vote were unanimous and no one abstained. In which case, the Presiding Officer would indicate that everyone voted in favor (or against) the action. If the vote were not unanimous or if someone wished to abstain, the Presiding Officer would have to inquire how each member voted and who abstained. This would be time consuming if the board were greater than 5 members.
- Open Ballot: Ballots could be used by the board members. Each member would print his/her name and his/her vote (e.g., Yes, No, Abstain, name of candidate, etc.) The Presiding Officer would then read the name and the vote from each ballot for the Secretary to include in the minutes.
- Raising Hands (or Standing): Probably the most efficient and most accurate approach would be to take the vote by the raising of hands (or standing). The Presiding Officer could then pronounce each member’s name and how each voted for the Secretary to include in the minutes.