Focus on New Laws: Open Meeting Law Medical Exception Change

June 15, 2020

A change to the Open Meeting Law allows greater flexibility for elected officials to attend meetings by interactive TV due to medical reasons.

A new law allows elected officials to participate in public meetings via interactive television — such as Skype or Zoom — from locations that are not open or accessible to the public. This can be done when a health care professional has determined that the elected official cannot be in public due to personal or family medical reasons.

The bill containing this change (HF 4556) was passed during the 2020 regular legislative session. Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law as Chapter 74 on April 15 and it became effective the next day. This exception is included in article 1, section 1, which amends the interactive TV provision of the Open Meeting Law, Minnesota Statutes, section 13D.02.

The medical exception allowance is only available when a state of emergency has been declared by the governor, and can be used up to 60 days after the state of emergency has been lifted. In combination with the already existing military exception, the medical exception is limited to three times in a calendar year.

General change for any use

The new law also requires that if any city councilmember attends a meeting by interactive TV, all votes must be conducted by roll call. This requirement applies to use of the interactive TV exception for any reason — medical, military, or otherwise.

Impetus for new medical exception

In the past, a member of a public body that was unable to attend council meetings in person could attend via interactive television, but only if their location was open to the public.

However, with the issues presented by COVID-19, public access was not possible due to medical reasons. This created difficulties for public bodies to conduct meetings, particularly if a quorum was needed to take official action.