Bill Would Relax Interactive TV Requirements of Open Meeting Law

Proposed legislation would, in limited circumstances, allow councilmembers to Skype into council meetings from a location not accessible to the public.
(Published Feb 11, 2019)

HF 281 (Rep. Erin Koegel, DFL-Spring Lake Park) was heard and passed unanimously to the floor by the House Government Operations Committee on Feb. 7. This League-supported bill would modify requirements under the interactive TV provision of the Open Meeting Law.

Currently under Minnesota Statutes, section 13D.02, city councilmembers can participate in council meetings remotely through interactive TV, such as Skype. One of the requirements is that the remote location must be open and accessible to the public.

Under the bill, if a city councilmember is deployed or has a medical condition where a medical professional has deemed the councilmember unable to be in public for medical reasons, then the remote location is not required to be accessible to the public. However, all members of the city council and the public still must be able to see and hear one another.

City testimony

Spring Lake Park City Administrator Dan Buchholtz testified that the city had two councilmembers with serious medical issues, which made it challenging to have a quorum for city council meetings. Both councilmembers could have also participated by Skype, but they were unable to make their locations accessible to the public due to health concerns.

Blaine City Clerk Cathy Sorenson shared that the city had a councilmember who was deployed to Puerto Rico for a relief mission but had to miss city council meetings. The location where he was stationed was not accessible to the public, but he would have been able to participate in council meetings via Skype.

Senate companion coming

A Senate companion bill is anticipated to be introduced in the upcoming weeks. This bill was heard in House and Senate committees last year, but did not make it to the finish line.

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