Bill Expands Application of Open Meeting Law

Under the legislation, the Open Meeting Law would apply to trainings and social gatherings.
(Published Mar 13, 2017)

HF 1105 (Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville), which provides an open-ended definition of “meeting” under the Open Meeting Law, passed out of the House Government Operations Committee and is heading to the House floor.

The Senate companion bill, SF 1715 (Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove) has not been heard yet in the Senate.

Local government concerns
The League and other local government associations testified against the bill, bringing up concerns that the proposed definition of “meeting” would make trainings and social gatherings subject to the Open Meeting Law. The bill defines “meetings” as “a gathering of a quorum or more members of an entity covered by this section at which members discuss, decide, or receive information as a group.”

Receiving information as a group could include trainings, such as the LMC Annual Conference, and social gatherings, such as an American Legion meeting.

Rep. Howe committed to working on an amendment that would address these concerns before the bill goes to the House floor.

Proponents of the bill
The bill was brought by the Minnesota Coalition of Government Information, an open government organization because it disagreed with an advisory opinion from the Information Policy Analysis Division (16-006). The commissioner of Administration found that a school board could meet in private, facilitated discussions designed to “improve trust, relationships, communications, and collaborative problem solving” without violating the Open Meeting Law.

“Meeting” is not statutorily defined in the Open Meeting Law (Minnesota Statutes, chapter 13D). But the Minnesota Supreme Court has defined it as “a gathering of a quorum or more members of the governing body . . . at which members discuss, decide, or receive information as a group on issues relating to the official business of that governing body.” Moberg v. Independent School District No. 281, 336 N.W.2d 510 (Minn. 1983).

The italicized language is missing from the bill language. The attorney general has relied on this italicized language to find training—where city business is not discussed—is not subject to the Open Meeting Law. A.G. Op. 63a-5 (Feb. 5, 1975).

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