Massachusetts Open Meeting Law Update

On June 15, 2021, the state of emergency enacted by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on March 10, 2020 expired. During the State of Emergency, state and local permits were extended and certain provisions of the Open Assembly Act were suspended to allow remote participation.

In response, on June 15, 2021, Massachusetts legislature passed p. 2475, “An Act Extending Certain COVID-19 Measures Enacted During the State of Emergency,” to extend certain emergency measures. Among other things, the law expands the ability of municipalities to hold public meetings remotely. It does not extend the period of validity of certain permits. On June 16, 2021, the governor signed the law into effect.

Open right of assembly

Governor Baker issued Order No. 1 on March 10, 2020, suspending certain provisions of the Public Gatherings Act. This ordinance has made it possible to hold public meetings remotely, with distant participation by members of the public and members of the local authority. The order expired on June 15, 2021.

The new law allows municipal bodies to continue to conduct public meetings remotely, either through “appropriate alternative means of public access” or, if such public access is not possible, by publishing a “complete and complete transcript, record or another comprehensive record of “the process as soon as possible” on the municipality’s website. Appropriate alternative access includes telephone, internet, or any other technology that enables audio or video conferencing so that the public can clearly see what is going on in the community.

Despite the expiry of the emergency ordinance, the new law expressly allows municipalities to hold public remote meetings in anticipation of the law’s passage, the measures of which will be ratified as soon as the law is passed. The determination ends on April 1st, 2022.

© 2021 Pierce Atwood LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 167

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