We get so many questions about the new California special district website requirements going into effect Jan. 2020 that I thought a blog post was in order. Hopefully this helps make sense of the legal requirements on the horizon!
What does SB 929 require?
SB 929 requires all independent special districts to maintain a website, unless the district passes a resolution claiming a hardship for particular reasons, including evidence of that hardship, in a public meeting each year.
When does SB 929 go into effect?
January 1, 2020.
What exactly must be posted to the website?
There are only 5 posting requirements: contact information for the district; the most recent agenda (posted 72 hours in advance of each upcoming meeting); the State Controller's reports for the district's Financial Transaction Report and Board and Staff Compensation Report (or a link to each of the State Controller's websites); and the district's Enterprise System Catalog (as required by SB 272, due July 2016). Note that all of these requirements, other than the contact information, are things districts should already be publishing each year, regardless of a website. You can read the entire text of the bill here.
What sort of contact information is required?
The bill doesn't state, it just says that contact information is required. Our assumption is that this means physical and mailing address, phone number, and main district email address.
What are the specific agenda posting requirements?
Districts have always been required to post agendas at least 72 hours in advance, per the Brown Act, and if the district has a website, they must be posted there as well. AB 2257 went into effect January 2019, and that added a few requirements: first, there must be a link on the home page that goes directly to the current agenda; and second, the agenda itself must be searchable, indexable, and platform-independent. (This means that you should be saving or exporting your agenda to PDF from Word, then posting that as your official agenda. Contact us if you need more info.)
Why do I have to post my Financial Transaction Report and Compensation Report?
Actually, you don't. The good news is that you can comply with this requirement by simply posting a link to each of the State Controller's websites, where they publish that information. (Bonus, you can just do this once!) You do have to complete the reports and submit to the State Controller each year, but at least you don't have to update this on your site annually if you link out.
What the heck is an Enterprise System Catalog?
SB 272, which went into effect in July 2016, requires all local government agencies to create a catalog of every software program they use that meet certain requirements (does it contain information about the public? Is it a system of record? etc.) There are no exemptions: even if your district doesn't have any computers or software, you must create a "catalog" stating that fact. Catalogs have to be updated annually. You can learn more or sign up for our free compliance tool here.
Is this as hard as it sounds?
No, compliance with the posting requirements is actually pretty easy ... and, compared to the districts in Florida (with 42 posting requirements), California districts are getting off easy. :) Use this handy checklist to make sure you're covering all the bases, or reach out if you'd like to chat about how we can help.
But, what about accessibility?
Well, this is where it can get a bit more difficult to comply. By law all local government websites in California must measure up to WCAG 2.0 AA standards, and if you have an older site that might be a problem. You do have options though: test your site pages using a free tool like achecker.ca, or reach out to us for a demo of our compliant website platform. We can also put you in touch with companies that do extensive manual scans.
Where can I learn more?
We do webinars on this topic often, so if you'd like to join an upcoming event where you'll be able to ask questions, sign up on our Webinars page. If you'd like to view the resources from a past webinar, you can do so on the same page, just scroll down a bit. :) You can also contact us anytime you need more information, we're here to help.