From the Massachusetts Municipal Association today –
|Legislature Passes Remote Meeting Extension Through March 31, 2023 |
On Thursday afternoon, the House and Senate passed legislation (S. 3007) extending key pandemic-era accommodations, including remote meeting authorizations, to March 31, 2023.
Once the Governor signs the bill, cities and towns will retain the option to hold public meetings remotely, following the same guidelines that have been in place since the COVID public health emergency was first declared in March of 2020.
Back in May, a remote meeting extension was included in the final FY23 Senate Budget as an outside section, but this language was advanced by the Senate as a standalone bill last week with the July 15th expiration approaching and the final budget still tied up in negotiations. The House later passed its own version of the bill, including language that would have created a permanent mandate for remote access to all public meetings aside from those in executive session, with a provision requiring remote participation by the public if public participation is allowed or required at the meeting. This would have gone into effect on April 1, 2023.
The MMA worked with our members and stakeholders across the Commonwealth to make it clear to the Legislature that despite the good intentions behind H. 4991, such an unfunded mandate would have presented unworkable financial, technological, logistical, and practical challenges for cities and towns.
The MMA is pleased the Legislature took these concerns very seriously and removed this unfunded mandate from the bill, extending current remote meeting options through March 31st of next year. The MMA will continue to push for a permanent solution that gives municipalities the necessary flexibility and funding they will need to expand participation and engagement through remote and hybrid meetings. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting action, and will go into effect immediately once signed. Communities with public meetings scheduled today or early next week are encouraged to consult with their municipal legal counsel on the best course of action.
Please thank your Representatives and Senators for extending the remote meeting options, and for recognizing the challenges that would have been created with an unworkable mandate.
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