March 24, 2020 – The Senate voted today to pass an amendment to H.681 which would authorize public bodies, including local boards and commissions, to hold meetings remotely during the COVID 19 crisis. During the current declared emergency, a public body would not need to provide a physical location for an open meeting or need to have a person physically present.
The public body may hold the meeting by electronic means. It would be required to provide for telephone access whenever feasible. The school board and selectboard would have to record their meetings, unless unusual circumstances made it impossible to do so. In the event of a staffing shortage, a public body could extend the time for posting minutes to ten calendar days.
The amendment also provides that during the declared state of emergency relative to COVID 19, the governor could authorize state agencies to extend any deadline applicable to municipal corporations or regional planning commissions for up to 90 days after the emergency ends. A municipality would be authorized to extend or waive deadlines applicable to its licenses, permits, programs, or plans, but not those of the state.
Disconnections from public water or wastewater systems would be prohibited for the duration of the emergency.
The bill is being delivered to the House where we expect that it will be passed tomorrow.
A link to the amendment is here. (See Section 5, page 5.)