In her post, Public Meetings Amidst Social Distancing, on the McNees Public Sector Blog, Erica Wibble, provides a great update on guidance for municipalities trying to comply with the Sunshine Act during the COVID-19 pandemic and under Governor Wolf’s Order (which we have discussed in numerous other posts).  A few highlights are below, but please be sure to read her entire post for more details.

According to the Office of Open Records, any agency [not able to meet in person] must provide a reasonably accessible method for the public to participate and comment pursuant to Section 710.1 of the [Sunshine] Act. Further, the Office of Open Records strongly recommends that any agency holding such a meeting should record the meeting and proactively make the recording available (preferably online) so that a full and complete record of the meeting is available to the public.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering a proposal, House Bill 1564, which would allow municipalities to hold meetings remotely when the Governor has made a declaration of disaster or emergency.  Among other things, HB 1564 includes the following requirements:

  • All members of the municipal governing body must be able to speak to and hear the comments and votes.
  • To the extent possible, the municipality must allow for public participation.
  • The municipality must post notice of the meeting on its publicly accessible Internet website and, except where emergency circumstances dictate otherwise, via a newspaper of general circulation.
  • The meeting must be live-streamed, recorded, or at a minimum, the draft minutes be made available within 48 hours of the meeting’s conclusion.

HB 1564 received third consideration and final passage (on a unanimous vote) by the House of Representatives on March 25, 2020.  The bill has not yet been acted on by the Senate.

For any questions regarding the guidance issued by the Office of Open Records or HB 1564, please contact a member of the McNees Public Finance & Government Services Group or a member of the McNees Real Estate Group.