As the pandemic recedes, Restrictions on public accessibility Part of the California Legislative Committee Hearings and Floor Sessions. Are these restrictions on public participation acceptable?
Article IV, Section 7(c) sets forth applicable law. This provision of the State Constitution provides for:
(c) Except as provided in paragraph (1)(3), the proceedings of each House and its committees shall be open and public. The right to be present at public and public proceedings includes the right to record by audio or video means any or all parts of the proceedings and to broadcast or transmit them. However, Parliament may, for the sole purpose of minimizing disruption to proceedings, adopt reasonable rules pursuant to paragraph (5) regulating the placement and use of equipment for recording or broadcasting minutes. The aggrieved party may stand to challenge the aforementioned rules in actions seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and Congress shall bear the burden of proving that the rules are reasonable. .
(2) Beginning on January 1 of the two calendar years following the adoption of this paragraph, the Legislature shall also cause audiovisual recordings of all proceedings covered by paragraph (1) to be made in its entirety and make such recordings available on the Internet. shall be made public through Not later than 24 hours after the proceedings are suspended or adjourned for the day, an archive of such records shall be maintained, which shall be publicly accessible through the Internet and shall be downloadable for not less than 20 years as specified by law. must be
(3) Notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2), closed sessions may be held only for the following purposes:
(A) to consider the appointment, hiring, performance evaluation, or removal of any public official or public official, to consider or hear complaints or charges brought against members of Congress or other public officials or public officials, or to classify or classify public officials; Compensation for parliamentary staff to establish.
(B) Consider matters affecting the safety and security of members of the Council or their employees or the safety and security of buildings and grounds used by the Council;
(C) if discussion in a public session does not protect the interests of the House or Committee on Litigation, discuss with its counsel any pending or reasonably anticipated litigation, or whether to initiate litigation; Get advice from that lawyer.
(4) Caucuses of Senators, Representatives or both Houses composed of members of the same political party may meet in private.
Let’s take a closer look at these provisions.
First, the minutes of each House of the California Legislature and its committees shall be “open and public.” California uses the term “shall” to mean that something is mandatory (“may” to mean that something is optional). As a result, the Chambers of the House and Senate, and committees of all kinds (standing committees, elective committees, joint committees, etc.) must and should be open to the public. This would also require a direct meeting of the floor and all those committees.
Note that individuals can sue Congress for adopting a “reasonable” rule. However, that provision is relevant only to parliaments adopting rules that “regulate the placement and use of equipment for recording or broadcasting minutes for the sole purpose of minimizing disruption to proceedings.” .
Secondly, there is the “right to attend public and public proceedings” of each House (Parliament and Senate) and its committees. This would also seem to require a direct meeting of the House and all legislative committees. In these cases, House sessions and committee hearings must be open to the public with all legislative activity open to the public.
Third, despite these positive statements of Congress’ public and public meetings, closed-door meetings are held only for one of three specific purposes: employment, safety, and legal proceedings. There is a possibility that it will be
Fourth, there is another exemption from public and public meetings for either House or joint legislative “caucuses” (that is, members of the same political party).
So does Congress have the power to exclude the public from legislative proceedings such as chamber and committee hearings? The answer is not clear from these articles in the state constitution.
Obviously, there are capacity limitations, such as physical limits on the size of the Congressional Gallery, Senate Gallery, and committee hearing rooms. There are also restrictions imposed by state fire departments. Of course, members of the public who are breaking the law or engaging in illegal or criminal activity may be excluded.
Also, as we experienced during the pandemic, there are reasonable restrictions on members of the public, for health reasons, who have physical access to otherwise open and public floor sessions or committee hearings. Consequently, recent history suggests that so long as any limitation or exclusion is reasonably imposed on members of the public, it is consistent with Article IV, paragraph 7. increase.