House Addresses Technological Updates to the Open Meeting Law

March 1, 2021

The stakeholder-informed bill, which makes changes to the Open Meeting Law due to updated technology, was sent to the House floor.

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

HF 1140 (Rep. Steve Elkins, DFL-Bloomington), which would provide technological updates to the Open Meeting Law was passed unanimously out of the House Local Government Division on Feb. 24 and the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee on Feb. 26. The bill was sent to the House floor.

The Senate companion, SF 1544 (Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault), is being introduced on March 1 and is not yet scheduled for a hearing.

Stakeholder involvement

Elkins said the bill was needed because technology has changed significantly since the first passage of the Open Meeting Law. He encouraged stakeholders to meet and try to come to an agreement on needed changes. HF 1140 is a product of those stakeholder meetings.

Minnesota Coalition on Government Information Board Member Matt Ehling and League staff provided additional background on the stakeholder meetings and an overview of the bill.

Specifics of the bill

To replace dated terms and to provide consistency, the term “interactive technology” would replace “interactive television” and “other electronic means” in the Open Meeting Law. The bill defines “interactive technology” as “a device, software program, or other application that allows individuals in different physical locations to see and hear one another.”

The League clarified that the intention is for government entities to use technology that allows hearing and seeing by the public. However, it does not guarantee that all members of the public would be able to hear and see if, for example, they have a visual impairment or a bad internet connection.

Government entities would no longer be able to charge the public for monitoring remote meetings. Stakeholders acknowledged that with modern technology, there is no longer a need for this charge.

The bill also provides that when there is a health pandemic or declared emergency under Minnesota Statutes, section 13D.021, government entities would be required, to the extent practical, to provide a public comment period if that government entity’s practice was already to have public comment periods during their meetings.

Finally, an amendment was adopted that clarifies a recent issue on the statutory requirement for a “journal of votes.” The amendment makes clear that meeting minutes that include votes will satisfy this requirement, so it’s not necessary to have a separate document that serves as that journal. 

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