Memo of Support: Open Meetings Law Will Require Hybrid Participation at Public Meetings and Close Loopholes

May 24, 2024

Climate and Energy Justice, Disability Justice, Environmental Justice, Health Justice, News

Photo: a hand touches the keypad of a laptop. On the laptop screen is lots of little squares of people on webcam - a webcast meeting.

NYLPI joins more than thirty groups in support of A10266 (Simone), which would improve the Open Meetings Law. as “this bill… will encourage greater public participation in open meetings, while making it easier for those serving on public bodies to attend such meetings.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed how remote public meetings were a boon to members of the disability community, parents of young children, and many other civic-minded people. Suddenly, people unable to attend in person could watch and, in some cases, even participate in vital governmental meetings from home. In the FY 2022-23 budget, the state Legislature and Governor extended COVID-era remote meetings practices. This provided a framework for remote and in-person participation by members of public bodies and the general public, but did not fully mandate hybrid meetings. The FY 2024-25 budget extended these provisions until 2026. The FY 2023 law was an improvement, but New York can do better. Agencies like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have already shown that a hybrid open meeting process is workable, both for public officials and members of the public. More than 30 groups provided a set of recommendations in December 2023 that informed the drafting of this bill, which mandates hybrid public meetings at the state and local levels. Additionally, the bill reduces the burden for non-elected bodies like community boards, requiring that only the presiding officer must attend in-person at a physical location that is fully accessible to the public, rather than a quorum of members. Lastly, the bill closes loopholes that provide discretion for agencies regarding publishing of public notice and materials for open meetings, removing “to the extent practicable” language to ensure New Yorkers are adequately informed about upcoming meetings. We strongly urge the Legislature to pass this bill, and the Governor to sign it.”

Click here to view this memo as a PDF.

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