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Legislative Alert + Your Input Needed: Legislature May REQUIRE Hybrid Meetings

February 09, 2024

state house alert

The Senate Government Operations Committee will likely vote out a bill amending Vermont’s Open Meeting Law that will require all selectboards, city councils, and boards of trustees to hold hybrid meetings.

The committee’s most recent version of S.55 would eliminate your ability to hold meetings that are either fully remote or fully in person. This hybrid meeting requirement would mean your community will need to have a designated physical meeting location equipped with technology that will allow for participation of both in-person and virtual attendees

VLCT has voiced our opposition to this new requirement, instead advocating for enabling fully remote meetings, hybrid meetings, or in-person meetings at the discretion of the public body. If you feel strongly that this hybrid meeting requirement would negatively impact your community, now is the time to be heard.

In an effort to better understand the impact of this hybrid meeting requirement, VLCT asks that you consider doing two things.

  1. Complete this brief survey today (it should take less than five minutes). This will help us to effectively advocate on your behalf next week, when the Senate Government Operations Committee may send the bill to the full Senate for a vote.

    Take the Survey
     
  2. Please send members of the Senate Government Operations Committee a note sharing your concern, and copy Ted Brady (tbrady@vlct.org) on it. We recommend that you explain why a hybrid meeting requirement would be difficult for your community to meet and highlight the following obstacles:
  • Hybrid meetings are more difficult to run and more technologically challenging than in-person or fully remote meetings.

  • The equipment to implement hybrid meetings is expensive – the Joint Fiscal Office conservatively estimates it costs about $5,000 to set up a single room with equipment – and there are ongoing annual costs.

  • A one-size-fits-all solution is inadequate here in Vermont, where small towns may struggle to run a virtual or hybrid meeting.
     

The members of the Senate Government Operations Committee are:

Chair, Senator Ruth Hardy, Addison District: rhardy@leg.state.vt.us
Vice Chair, Senator Tanya Vyhovsky, Chittenden-Central District: tvyhovsky@leg.state.vt.us
Senator Alison Clarkson, Windsor District: aclarkson@leg.state.vt.us
Senator Becca White, Windsor District: rwhite@leg.state.vt.us
Senator Robert Norris, Franklin District: rnorris@leg.state.vt.us
Senator Anne Watson, Washington District: awatson@leg.state.vt.us
 

Be sure to also thank the members of the committee for trying to find a compromise solution. They have specifically created exemptions to the hybrid meeting requirement, allowing for fully remote meetings during “local incidents” such as weather events and for advisory committees that do not have legislative, quasi-judicial or budgetary functions. In addition, they have recognized that the hybrid meeting requirement will have a financial impact on many communities and have therefore proposed a grant program to help municipalities buy technology to facilitate hybrid meetings.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

Ted Brady

VLCT Executive Director