AG proposes rules for remote meeting participation

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The attorney general’s office today released proposed regulations that, if adopted, would allow municipalities to authorize remote participation in meetings held by local public bodies.

The rules would also allow remote participation for meetings of county, district, regional and state bodies.

“Members of public bodies will be allowed to participate in meetings remotely only for certain reasons, and only where those reasons make physical attendance unreasonably difficult,” the attorney general’s office said in a written statement. “The attorney general continues to believe that all members of public bodies should participate in meetings through physical attendance.”

Even under the new rules, the open meeting law will still require a quorum of the public body, as well as its chair, to be physically present at any meeting, including one where members are participating remotely.

Under the new rules, the appropriate local authority would have to approve the use of remote participation by a simple majority vote. Once adopted, the use of remote participation would apply to all subsequent meetings held by that public body.

The proposed regulations outline five permissible reasons for remote participation: personal illness, personal disability, emergency, military service, or geographic distance. The regulations include a comprehensive list of the appropriate technology to be used for remote participation as well as the procedures for using the technology.

Remote meeting participation by members of public bodies remains prohibited, however, until the regulation amendment process is complete.

The attorney general will hold a public hearing on the proposed regulations on Sept. 6, 4-6 p.m., at One Ashburton Place, 21st floor, in Boston. Written comments on the proposed regulations may be sent to Amy Nable, director of the Division of Open Government, Office of the Attorney General, One Ashburton Place, 20th floor, Boston, MA 02108, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Sept. 6.

During a public comment period last September, the attorney general received input that helped to shape the regulations. Reading Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner, the MMA’s representative on the Open Meeting Law Advisory Commission, also had the opportunity to weigh in.

For more information, visit the attorney general’s website at www.mass.gov/ago.
Written by MMA Legislative Analyst Katie S. McCue