Virtual Public Meetings and other COVID-19 changes
In response to the recent outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) the Governor signed LD 2167, An Act To Implement Provisions Necessary to the Health, Welfare and Safety of the Citizens of Maine in Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, which is now PL 2019, c. 617.
Part G enacts Title 1, section 403-A, Public proceedings through remote access during declaration of state of emergency due to COVID-19. It authorizes conducting public proceedings through telephonic, video, electronic or other similar means of remote participation with specific conditions. The section is repealed 30 days after the termination of the state of emergency.
While we want to find the right way to conduct public business and protect public health, even this emergency does not alter the fundamental requirements of transparency. The need for accountability is even more acute under these conditions. The following additional measures, although not required by law, will support government efforts to remain open and accessible:
- 1. IT resources needed to accomplish remote participation deployed to ensure that the objectives of the legislation can be met;
- 2. Audio recording of remote public meetings streamed or posted online; and
- 3. Notice, even for emergency meetings, include instructions for the public to join remotely;
- 4. Proactive release of public records related to topics of heightened public interest, especially COVID-19 health and safety information.