An Act Concerning Meetings of Public Bodies Using Communications Technology
Sec. 1. 1 MRSA §403-A is enacted to read:
§ 403-A. Public proceedings through communications technology
(1) The public proceeding is necessary to take action to address the emergency; and
(2) The body otherwise complies with the provisions of this section to the extent practicable based on the circumstances of the emergency; or
This bill prohibits the use of telephonic, video, electronic or other similar means of communication to conduct public proceedings of elected public bodies of municipalities, quasi-municipal entities and school administrative units. It allows nonelected public bodies of municipalities, quasi-municipalities and school administrative units to do so only if specific requirements are met. Subject to the listed requirements, a body may conduct a public proceeding during which a member of the body participates in the discussion or transaction of public or governmental business through telephonic, video, electronic or other similar means of communication.
1. The body must adopt a policy that authorizes such participation and establishes the criteria that must be met under which a member may participate when not physically present. If the policy authorizes such participation in an executive session, the policy must spell out the circumstances for conducting the executive session that will ensure the required privacy.
2. Notice of any proceeding must be provided in accordance with the Freedom of Access Act.
3. A quorum of the body must be physically present, except that under certain circumstances a body may convene a public proceeding by telephonic, video, electronic or other similar means of communication without a quorum assembled physically at one location. One such circumstance is if the body's governing statute authorizes a meeting using the remote-access technology with less than a quorum physically present in the location listed in the meeting notice.
4. Members of the body must be able to hear and speak to each other during the proceeding. If discussions are based on documents or materials that are in visual format, the technology used must also allow all members to see the materials unless the documents and materials are provided before or during the proceedings to all members not physically present.
5. A member who is participating remotely must identify the persons present in the location from which the member is participating.
6. All votes taken during the public proceeding must be taken by roll call vote.
7. Each member who is not physically present and who is participating through telephonic, video, electronic or other similar means of communication must have received, prior to the proceeding, any documents or other materials that will be discussed at the public proceeding, with substantially the same content as those documents actually presented.
8. A member of a body who is not physically present may not vote on any issue concerning testimony or other evidence provided during the public proceeding if it is a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding.
9. If a body conducts one or more public proceedings using the remote-access technology, the body must also hold at least one public proceeding annually during which all members of the body in attendance are physically assembled at one location.