Bill to Address Public Meeting Disruptions Signed into Law

A Proud Boys member speaks out in Modesto in June

Special to the Vanguard

Sacramento, CA – A recent phenomenon has been the increasing number of people—particularly from extremist groups like the Proud Boys—who have disrupted public meetings.

Senator Dave Cortese (D-Silicon Valley) and Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) introduced a bill, SB 1100, to address the increased number of public meeting disruptions local governments are facing statewide, which was signed into law today by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Last year, as local officials in Silicon Valley—including AAPI public officials such as Los Gatos Mayor Marico Sayoc—faced an increased number of targeted bullying and harassment efforts statewide, Senator Cortese and Assemblymember Low expressed their support for establishing mechanisms to de-escalate disruptions during public meetings that significantly interrupt public business.

By establishing common-sense mechanisms to deescalate significant disruptions and allow members of a legislative body to return to their important governmental business in a swift manner, SB 1100 would enhance public access to meetings and enhance the democratic process.

“We are thrilled that SB 1100 has been signed into law to protect the public, local officials, and the democratic process during our public meetings. I’d like to thank Governor Newsom for recognizing the need for this bill and for ensuring public meetings can be safe places where important business can occur and where the public can participate, engage, and be heard,” said Senator Dave Cortese, one of the bill’s authors.

Senator Cortese explained: “This was a piece of legislation that our local governments and meeting goers across the state requested, and I’m proud that we were able to work with First Amendment advocates and attorneys to craft a solution that could both address the sharp increase in abuse that public officials and meeting attendees were facing while protecting our first amendment rights.”

Assemblymember Evan Low added: “Hate speech, threats, bullying, harassment, and intimidation at public meetings are absolutely unacceptable. These disruptive behaviors drive people away from civic engagement. This is an important step in maintaining public participation, and I would like to thank the Governor for recognizing the importance of ensuring a safe democratic process.”

“Senate Bill 1100 provides an important tool to combat the appalling behavior, threats, and intimidation tactics communities have been subjected to at public meetings. Its application will ensure broad participation and protect the productive exchange of ideas essential to our democratic process,” said California State Association of Counties Executive Director Graham Knaus.

Kraus continued, “We applaud Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of Senate Bill 1100, and we thank Senator Dave Cortese and Assemblymember Evan Low for their advocacy on behalf of this bill and local agencies throughout the state.”

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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    1. David Greenwald

      “Under the California bill, the presiding officer at public meetings could have a disruptive person removed, but only after warning them that their behavior is disruptive and will result in their ejection if it continues. Once warned, the individual may be removed if they continue the disruption. The measure also defines disrupting, which can include making threats or failing to comply with reasonable and lawful regulations.”

      I think it codifies the power of the presiding officer to remove disruptive individuals. I recall two incidents in Davis in 16 that might have applied to this. But at the same time, the problem of disruption seems to be growing.

      1. Keith Olson

        You know how that be applied, where people complaining from the opposite side of the presiding officer’s political views will be held to the rules while others who agree with those in charge will tend to have a looser rein.

        1. Bill Marshall

          A two-edged sword… similar to the filibuster rules in the US Senate… depending on the ‘party in power’…

          Do you truly believe that anyone can come into a public meeting, rant, rave, even brandish a gun (2nd amendment right?), and/or ‘filibuster’?   Should there be no restrictions of time for someone from the public?  Should they be able to shout epithets, however vulgar, etc. (their 1st amendment rights)?

          There are 3 general ‘tests’ that have been upheld by society (and the courts) over two centuries… “time, place, and manner”…

          It appears that the law is trying to deal with the “manner” part, as far as obstructing ‘the people’s business’… anarchy, in all its forms, is not generally good for society…

          Trump had ‘goons’ remove hecklers from rallies (arguably, ‘public meetings’)… punching them out… well documented… outside the law, outside authorized law enforcement… not good, bad optics…

          Is that what you endorse?  I wonder…

          It’s about civility, and conducting ‘public business’ in a reasonable way.


          1. David Greenwald

            I think you have that about right. The law lays out a protocol and rules to give local government tools they can use if a problem arises.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Ron O…

          That’s generally the problem, due to human nature (and lack of self-awareness/objectivity). 
          Sometimes it’s purposeful, as well.

          Fully agree with both points… I feel the latter point (sentence) should be ‘sanctioned’…

  1. Keith Olson

    From the L.A. Times:  The nonpartisan group Californians for Good Governance fears the bill could be interpreted by local officials “as a general license to limit public participation.”
    “The reality is that participatory democracy is a messy business, but limiting public input is not the answer as it moves our government towards authoritarianism and away from democracy,” the group said in opposing the bill.

      1. Don Shor

        I’ve never actually heard of Californians for Good Governance.

        They barely exist. One name associated with the group anywhere on line. They apparently came into existence to oppose the governor’s COVID restrictions. The LA Times should probably vet things like this a little more closely.

        1. Ron Oertel

          first amendment group

          I assume this refers to groups like the ACLU, which seem to have “changed” into something else (for the most part).

          they are basically an interested party

          Don’t know what that means, either. Covid is “over”, as far as the restrictions are concerned. Therefore, it’s no longer a realistic “issue” for any group.

          Personally, I don’t like it when commenters on here attack sources for the sole purpose of undermining arguments, rather than address whatever argument is being presented. Perhaps that “works” for those who have already formed an opinion about particular sources, and therefore discount anything they have to say.

          In the case of the ACLU, I’m basing my own comment on some of the articles I’ve seen on here.

          1. David Greenwald

            It’s very rare that I’ve never heard of a group and when it happens, there’s generally a reason for it.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Somewhat correct… big time wrong…

        The context is folk, on a regular agenda item (not ‘public comment’, which is ‘random as to content, for the most part)…

        The problem has been on regular business items, and Mr Olson seems to object to anything that could prevent shortening ‘speech’ that would prolong/thwart rational discussion… if it doesn’t fit his views on a particular topic.

        … sic the FBI on parents who complain at school board meetings?

        Just one example…

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