Bill Expanding Medical Exception to Open Meeting Law Advances in House and Senate

April 4, 2022

Under the bill, the medical exception would no longer apply only to COVID-19.

A bill that would allow greater flexibility for the medical exception to the Open Meeting Law advanced in both the House and Senate. The legislation is supported by the League and other local government associations.

SF 4212 (Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault) passed unanimously by the Senate Local Government Policy Committee on March 29, and now moves to the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.

The House companion, HF 4441 (Sen. Sandra Masin, DFL-Eagan), was passed out of the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee on April 1 by a partisan vote of 8-4. The bill moves to the general register, where it can be heard on the House floor.

Support for bill

Dakota County Commissioner Kathleen Gaylord testified on behalf of the Minnesota Inter-County Association. She highlighted that while this proposed change is limited, it is significant.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a need for this change. For example, when a member is undergoing chemotherapy, they are able to attend meetings but can’t be in the public for personal health reasons.

Also in the last few years, public bodies have used technology more, which has allowed for greater public participation and accountability.

Read a joint local government letter of support (pdf)

Legislator concerns

Legislators questioned the need to allow an exception for family medical reasons. As with personal medical reasons, there may be times when a council member is caring for a loved one who is immunocompromised. It is often advised that the caregiver shouldn’t go out in public to continue safely caring for the loved one.

They also questioned if the advice coming from a health care professional could be from a family member who happens to be a doctor.

For more background information about this bill, read a previous article.

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