The Bagley-Keene and Brown Acts provide that all meetings of state bodies and legislative bodies of local agencies are to be open and public. The only exemptions contained within either Act are those discussed below.
Both Acts contain a broad opening statement of public policy, which provides that the local and state bodies exist to "aid in the conduct of the people's business" and that it is the intent of the law that "their actions be taken openly and their deliberations be conducted openly." Cal. Gov't Code §§ 11120 (Bagley-Keene Act); 54950 (Brown Act). With respect to any claim of exemption that may be advanced by such bodies or agencies, each of the Acts state, "The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know." Cal. Gov't Code §§ 11120 (Bagley-Keene Act); 54950 (Brown Act).
Because the Sunshine Law is enacted for the public benefit, it should be construed liberally to give effect to its public purposes, and its exemption should be narrowly construed. Zorc v. City of Vero Beach, 722 So. 2d 891 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998). In addition, Florida’s Constitution, art. I, sec. 24(c), a self-executing provision, requires that each statutory exemption specify the public necessity justifying it and is no broader than necessary to accomplish the stated purpose of the law. See Halifax Hosp. Med. Ctr. v. News-Journal Corp., 724 So. 2d 567 (Fla. 1999) (striking down Fla. Stat. section 395.3035(4), which exempts portions of public hospital board meetings during which strategic plans are discussed, under this constitutional provision as being facially overbroad because it did not define “strategic plan” or limit the exemption to critically confidential portions of strategic meetings).
The Act states that it is the public policy of the state of Illinois "that its citizens shall be given . . . the right to attend all meetings at which any business of a public body is discussed or acted upon in any way. Exceptions to the public’s right to attend exist only in those limited circumstances where the General Assembly has specifically determined that the public interest would be clearly endangered or the personal privacy or guaranteed rights of individuals would be clearly in danger of unwarranted invasion." 5 ILCS 120/1.
SDCL§1-25-2 describes the specific subject matter that “may” be discussed in executive session. Closure is discretionary.
(1) Discussing the qualifications, competence, performance, character or fitness of any public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee. The term "employee" does not include any independent contractor;
(2) Discussing the expulsion, suspension, discipline, assignment of or the educational program of a student or the eligibility of a student to participate in interscholastic activities provided by the South Dakota High School Activities Association;
(3) Consulting with legal counsel or reviewing communications from legal counsel about proposed or pending litigation or contractual matters;
(4) Preparing for contract negotiations or negotiating with employees or employee representatives;
(5) Discussing marketing or pricing strategies by a board or commission of a business owned by the state or any of its political subdivisions, when public discussion may be harmful to the competitive position of the business.
On its face, the Tennessee's Sunshine Law provides that the only exceptions to the Act must be based solely on constitutional grounds; however, the Act also has provided specific statutory exemptions to the Act.
Note: the language below describing open meeting exclusions includes some close paraphrasing and some direct quotation from the statutes. For precise, current statutory language see the Code of Virginia.