The town of Franklin conducts a hybrid hearing.

The fiscal 2023 state budget bill passed by the Senate includes language to extend temporary authorizations for remote local government meetings — currently due to expire on July 15 — through Dec. 15, 2023.

Sen. William Brownsberger’s amendment to extend remote and hybrid meeting options was adopted by the Senate on May 25, with passage of the full budget bill occurring the following day.

The MMA sent a letter to legislators in April urging them to enact a permanent option for remote meetings, including town meetings, and caucuses.

“Remote participation at public meetings has ensured continuity of operations during the public health crisis and provided the additional benefit of enhanced equity in access, public engagement and transparency in government operations,” the MMA wrote. “With multiple councils, boards and commissions in place in each of our 351 member communities, there are thousands of public entities that have relied on remote meetings and virtual platforms to conduct their business. With new technologies developing rapidly, and an increased investment in equipment by these public entities, remote meetings have been very successful and effective for cities and towns [statewide].”

The MMA also noted that “flexibility is imperative, as different public entities have different capacities, needs and preferences.”

The budget bill passed by the House in April does not include a remote meeting extension.

A House-Senate conference committee will soon be appointed to work out a compromise state budget bill, which will need to pass both chambers before being signed into law. The MMA will continue to advocate for the remote meeting extension to be included in the final budget bill, and is urging legislators to make the options permanent.

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