News of the World – United States – Gov Gretchen Whitmer signs law allowing virtual town halls


A working session of the Portage Public School Board was held in person at the auditorium of Portage Northern High School in Portage, Michigan on Monday October 12 February 2020 due to changes regarding virtual town halls after Michigan Supreme Court ruling A bill signed by Gov Gretchen Whitmer on Friday Oct 16, now allows virtual public meetings until December 2021 Joel Bissell | MLivecom

Gov Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill on Friday evening allowing government meetings to be held virtually, ending days of confusion among public bodies unsure whether they could continue to hold meetings remotely afterwards that Whitmer’s executive orders authorizing them were essentially overturned by a recent decision of the State Supreme Court

Introduced in September by State Sen Lana Theis (R- Brighton), SB 1108 amends an existing law that requires most government meetings to be open to the public by allowing and facilitating remote participation, although some public meetings in person resume

« By enabling remote meetings, public bodies and residents can continue to practice safe social distancing while ensuring that meetings remain open, accessible and transparent to the public, » Whitmer said in a statement signature

The new law comes after months in which many state government agencies – like city councils and school boards – have held their in-person public meetings remotely in an effort to keep social distancing in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic

Whitmer signed orders, starting in March, to suspend these in-person public meetings and replace them with virtual meetings, held using teleconferencing technology and with citizens calling or writing with public comments

But these orders were rendered toothless two weeks ago, when the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the Whitmer state of emergency authority to issue such orders

Without the replacement bill passed on Friday, these virtual meetings could have been considered a violation of the State Open Meetings Act, which aims to promote government transparency

Indeed, many local government agencies have postponed public meetings last week, pending passage of this bill, or have held them in person with important security measures in place

SB 1108 passed the State House on Tuesday October 13, by a vote of 85-16, and passed the Senate later that night 36-1

As drafted, the law allows local governments to hold virtual meetings or allow members of the governing body to participate remotely

This law is drafted to accommodate public officials who cannot physically attend a meeting for reasons other than the coronavirus pandemic, such as other medical necessities, military duty or states of emergency or catastrophe It will be in effect until December 2021

The attendance of a remote member should be announced at the start of any meeting, with the person’s name and location identified unless that person is on military service

An organization wishing to hold a meeting remotely should explain why the meeting should be held remotely within 18 hours of the meeting, ensure clear two-way communication between members, and post an agenda online in advance.

Many standards stipulated by the Open Assembly Law remain in place, such as the right of participants in open assemblies to record the proceedings and the need to make decisions public, not behind closed doors. were limited « in order to minimize the possibility of disrupting the meeting, » says the bill

When debated in the Legislature, the bill received some rejection from Democrats and Republicans Some lawmakers have suggested that too much leeway over who can participate remotely could allow a person to circumvent their obligations under the Open Meetings Act, and others wanted to tie the legislation more directly to the coronavirus pandemic, by not allowing remote participation of members with independent medical conditions

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Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan

World News – United States – Government Gretchen Whitmer Signs Legislation Allowing Virtual Town Halls


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