Public meeting access gets post-COVID upgrade

MONTPELIER — The Senate this week unanimously passed S.55, a bill that sets new ground rules for the public’s access to public meetings in the post-pandemic era.

The version moving forward requires that meetings of all state-level bodies with control or jurisdiction over budgetary, legislative or quasi-judicial matters be hybrid, that is, provide both an in person and online option for attendance and participation. However, local bodies with those powers are allowed to meet entirely in person or provide a hybrid option, a reversion to the pre-pandemic status quo.

Advisory bodies on both the state and local level have the option to meet however its members prefer, either in hybrid form or entirely online or in person.

Additional new requirements in the bill include the procedure for calling an emergency online-only meeting following a local incident and new training requirements for municipal officials, among others.

On Wednesday, the bill passed third reading in the Senate and then was sent to the House.

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