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Some California officials can meet remotely. For local advisory boards, state lawmakers say no

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — On the one hand, allowing local advisory boards and commissions to meet remotely could make it easier for more Californians to take part, including those with disabilities or in jobs that make it hard to attend in-person meetings.

But on the other, shouldn’t people have the opportunity to address their public officials face-to-face?

That was the heart of the discussion around Assembly Bill 817, one of several recent proposals seeking to extend flexible meeting policies born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Legislature agreed last year to do that for state boards, until Jan. 1, 2026.

But lawmakers declined to give that flexibility for local advisory boards, including planning commissions and budget oversight committees, beyond emergency situations, caregiving and other exceptions they granted during the pandemic.

The broader bill failed in the Senate’s local government committee last week, failing to get a single “yes” vote. Four members voted “no” and three others didn’t vote.

Sen. María Elena Durazo, a Los Angeles Democrat who leads the committee, said that since advisory boards are often appointed by elected officials and make recommendations that lead to action, “it is vital that the public can inform the recommendations these bodies make.”

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