Senate Committee Hears Bill on Pandemic Fix to Open Meeting Law

February 22, 2021

The League-supported bill would allow elected officials to continue attending in-person meetings from home.

Note: There is updated information on this topic. Read the latest article.

SF 852 (Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault), a bill providing a pandemic fix to the Open Meeting Law, was heard and passed unanimously out of the Senate Local Government Policy Committee on Feb. 16. The bill was sent to the Senate floor.

The bill would allow elected officials to continue attending in-person meetings from home. It is supported by the League of Minnesota Cities, as well as the Minnesota School Boards Association, Minnesota Association of Townships, and Association of Minnesota Counties.

Read the joint local government letter of support (pdf)

The House companion bill, HF 820 (Rep. Erin Koegel, DFL-Spring Lake Park), is scheduled for hearings in the House Local Government Division on Feb. 24 and the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee on Feb. 26.

Support for bill

League General Counsel Pat Beety testified in support of the bill, highlighting that the legislative fix is needed due to the length of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some cities are currently holding in-person meetings, but some elected officials have health-related concerns that preclude them from attending these meetings in person.

The elected official (or a family member) may be at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 and, if contracted, may be in a high-risk group for serious complications or hospitalization.

The Legislature addressed this issue last session by passing the medical exception to the Open Meeting Law, but this medical exception can only be used three times per calendar year. Because the pandemic has lasted longer than expected, many elected officials have quickly reached the three-meeting cap for this exception.  

Bill details

The bill is a session law that specifically removes this cap between the beginning of this year through July 1, 2021. It has a retroactive effective date of Jan. 1, 2021.

As long as other statutory requirements for the medical exception are met, elected officials would be able to attend meetings from home or another private location — allowing them to fulfill their civic responsibilities without worrying about their health.

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