Dear NHSBA Members -
Earlier today, Governor Sununu issued an Emergency Order relative to public meetings under the Right to Know law, relaxing some of the notice and public participation requirements under RSA 91-A.
The Order states, in part:
- ...the requirement of RSA 91-A:2, III(b) that a quorum of a public body be physically present unless immediate action is imperative, is waived for the duration of the State of Emergency declared in Executive Order 2020-04.
- To further implement these orders and recommendations, the requirement of RSA 91-A:2, III(c), that each part of a meeting required to be open to the public shall be audible or otherwise discernable to the public "at the location specified in the meeting notice as the location of the meeting," is waived for the duration of the State of Emergency declared in Executive Order 2020-04 so long as the public body:
Provides public access to the meeting by telephone, with additional access possibilities by video or other electronic means;
Provides public notice of the necessary information for accessing the meeting;
Provides a mechanism for the public to alert the public body during the meeting if there are problems with access; and
Adjourns the meeting if the public is unable to access.
NHSBA Recommendations Moving Forward
Pursuant to paragraph 3 of Emergency Order #12, the board/committee chair may (should) declare all meetings as "emergency" meetings per RSA 91-A:2, III (b) suspending the presence of a quorum be at a physical location of the meeting.
The requirement of a physical location is suspended per Emergency Order #2, subject to the conditions stated in the second bullet above, inclusive of (a)-(b).
3. The board can address items that have any time sensitivity, but should be able to articulate that sensitivity for the various agenda items. Even non-emergency topics become urgent at some point.
4. Notice is still required to be posted 24 hours in advance in at least 2 locations, unless the "undelayed action" requirement of 91-A:2, II is also met. NHSBA advises that Boards should endeavor to go beyond the minimum and provide as much notice, in as many ways, as reasonably possible of all meetings - emergency or regular.
5. One important note of Emergency Order #12 is that EVEN IF the meeting is held via a webinar/online meeting platform (Zoom, Google Meets, etc.), the meeting must also include telephone broadcast. The public can be invited to attend through either medium.
6. Boards might consider suspension of public comment, at least until it is confident the meeting technology is working smoothly. One obstacle to open public comment using two platforms (telephone and Zoom), or even just telephone, is managing the telephone comments. Allowing one without the other could unfairly exclude one segment of the public. Consider a clear mechanism for receiving written public comment prior to the meeting to include as part of the meeting minutes (whether read into the minutes or not).
NHSBA Webinar - Emergency Meetings/Electronic Participation
Once again, we sincerely apologize for the technical difficulties experienced with this morning's webinar. NHSBA staff conducted a "test run" around 9am without issue. But the live presentation had more than a few snafus. We apologize to everyone who took time out of their morning to tune in.
For those who participated in either session today, or received a copy of the presentation, we are updating that presentation to reflect Emergency Order #12. The PDF of the updated version will be sent out tomorrow to this morning's participants after tomorrow's 9:30 webinar.
At 3pm this afternoon, we did host a webinar dedicated simply to Q&A with respect to these issues.
Webinar Scheduled for Tuesday March 24, 2020 at 9:30am
We are going to present the updated webinar tomorrow morning at 9:30am.
Please register here:
NHSBA will be sending out a link/file with the recording for later viewing.