Gavin Newsom Signs Bill To Make It Easier For Officials To Remove People

( California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is making it easier for public officials to forcibly remove people if they are causing disruptions at public meetings.

By signing a new bill earlier this week, Newsom has put into place specific standards that would count as means for people to be removed from public meetings.

Local government officials who are in charge of public meetings will now have the right to remove any person who is determined to be causing a big interruption. The officials must first give the person a warning, but then if they continue with their disruption, they can be removed from the meeting.

According to the bill, which was authored by state Senator Dave Cortese, a person will be determined to be disrupting the meeting if they are threatening people or refuse to be in compliance with lawful and reasonable regulations.

Two groups, the Urban Counties of California and the California State Association of Counties, said that this new bill would help local government agencies address an “unfortunate, but notable, increase in disruptive behavior” at public meetings.

In a statement he released earlier in August, Cortese said:

“When public meetings have to be called to an end early or entire meeting rooms of public attendees have to be cleared to deal with these disruptions, that hurts the democratic process as a whole. Public officials and attendees shouldn’t have to end their business early due to bullying, harassment or violence.”

Cortese drafted his bill after Marico Sayoch, the former mayor of Los Gatos, faced “targeted bullying and harassment efforts statewide” in 2021. The former mayor said if the bill were in place at the time, it would’ve helped to protect her and her family as they were facing attempts of concentrated harassment at various public meetings of city council.

She commented:

“I am hopeful that this bill will keep people safe in the future — those just trying to conduct business for the public good — and will ensure individuals, and especially women, continue to step up and serve in office without fear of harassment and violence at their public meetings.”

The flip side of this is that some people and groups are afraid the bill goes too far and could infringe on people’s First Amendment rights to free speech and public assembly.

The group Californians for Good Governance has said that it fears that local officials might try to interpret the new bill “as a general license to limit public participation.” As the group explained:

“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 hope, of course, is that local officials don’t try to take the bill too far and use it as a way to remove people who are speaking out about something that the local officials don’t agree with.

And that’s the potential danger of having a law like this in place.