Open meeting law regulation updates take effect Oct. 6

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has finalized updates to the state regulations related to the open meeting law.
 
Healey said the updates make the law easier to follow and enforce and “help local officials use technology to make government more open and accessible to all.”
 
The regulations were filed with the secretary of state’s office on Sept. 21 and will go into effect upon publication in the Massachusetts Register on Oct. 6.
 
The updates include the following:
 
• Meeting notices: When its website goes down, a public body or a municipality will have a short window of time to restore website access before the public body is required to cancel its meeting and post a new notice.
 
• Public body member certification: New public body members must receive a copy of each determination from the last five years where the AG’s Office found the public body violated the open meeting law.
 
• Resolution of complaints: Public bodies that receive an order from the Attorney General’s Office must certify in writing its compliance with the order within 30 days.
 
• Meeting minutes: The open meeting law currently requires that public bodies approve meeting minutes in a “timely manner.” Public bodies that approve meeting minutes within the next three meetings, or 30 days, whichever occurs latest, will have approved minutes in a timely manner, unless a public body can show good cause for further delay.
 
The AG’s Office sought public input earlier this year on potential updates to the open meeting law regulations. The attorney general’s Division of Open Government then conducted a review of the comments and drafted proposed updates. The proposed regulations were then open for public comment and have now been finalized after a public hearing and the close of the comment period.
 
“I thank the local officials, citizen activists, and media representatives who worked with us to improve these rules,” Healey said in a statement.
 
Healey said her office is making new educational materials available and will soon issue a new guidebook and certification form, along with updated checklists and FAQs.
 
The AG’s Office assumed responsibility for enforcement of the open meeting law at all levels of government in July 2010. The Division of Open Government is responsible for educating public bodies and individuals about the open meeting law, enforcing the law, and acting as a resource for members of government, the public and the press.
 
The Division of Open Government has conducted 15 webinars and 40 regional trainings across the state, and has issued more than 1,000 written determinations.
 
Link to Attorney General’s Office website for more information about the open meeting law