School committees and other public bodies may continue to hold remote meetings through March 31, 2023 under new legislation enacted last week. The statute, Chapter 107 of the Acts of 2022, also extends quorum reductions for town meetings and remote meetings of representative town meetings.
The prior authorization for remote-only public meetings was set to expire on July 15, 2022. Several different bills to enact permanent changes to the remote access provisions of the Open Meeting Law have been under consideration, but the new statute simply extends the expiration date on several COVID-era rules.
Under the amended Open Meeting Law, a quorum of a school committee may meet remotely without the chair or any other member being physically present in a meeting location. In addition, a school committee may continue to hold “hybrid” meetings, where the committee meets in person and the public attends only through remote means so long as the public has “adequate, alternative means of public access” that provide “transparency and permit timely and effective public access to the deliberations of the public body, including, but not limited to, providing public access through telephone, internet, satellite enabled audio or video conferencing or any other technology that enables the public to clearly follow the proceedings of the public body.”
Individuals required to appear and present before a school committee remotely must be given the same level of remote access as committee members (being promoted to “panelist” or “presenter”, rather than simply observing a livecast or participating through audio only.)
In addition to allowing for continued remote access to public meetings, Chapter 107 of Acts of 2022 also:
- Authorizes the reduction of the quorum at any town meeting through March 31, 2023; and
- Allows representative town meetings to meet by remote participation through March 31, 2023;
The statute contains an emergency preamble and therefore takes effect immediately.
Please contact a member of Mirick O’Connell’s School Law Group with specific questions on the new law.