In its new report, California’s independent government watchdog says that it would be more cost-efficient to make state government more accessible by permitting fully remote public meetings, even after the pandemic is over.
In The Government of Tomorrow: Online Meetings, the Little Hoover Commission highlights the benefits of Governor Newsom’s March 2020 Executive Order allowing state boards and commissions to meet via remote technology. Changing accessibility to make public meetings more inclusive by providing remote access would not only save taxpayer dollars, but it would significantly benefit those who have difficulty interacting with the state government such as low-income citizens or physically disabled persons.
“Governor Newsom has long been an advocate of using technology to make government more accessible, “said Commission Chair Pedro Nava, who also serves on the subcommittee on remote work and state government. “He even wrote a book on the subject—Citizenville. Now, the Governor and the Legislature can use proven technology to increase public accessibility and strengthen government accountability.”
The commission’s report also provides results from its survey of state boards—and other commissions—that met remotely during the pandemic. The survey reveals some substantial benefits to the public including:
More than 90 percent of surveyed agencies reported reduced costs from meeting remotely
Approximately half of agencies reported better attendance by commission members
One-third of agencies responded that they meet more often due to remote access
Approximately half of agencies with witnesses said it is easier to secure high-quality speakers
The Commission strongly advises the Governor and Legislature to make it easier for board and commission members to participate remotely to fully capture the benefits of meeting virtually. The commission also says that action should be taken before September 30—when the Governor’s executive order is rescinded—for these reforms to be the most effective.