News

Open Meeting Law Amended for Flexibility During Pandemic

May 11, 2020

The Open Meeting Law (Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13D) allows board members to participate in meetings via interactive television1 (or other video calling platforms such as Skype)2 when the statutory conditions are met. In light of Governor Tim Walz’s recent declaration of a peace time state of emergency, this provision was recently amended to allow additional flexibility.

The Open Meeting Law sets forth the conditions under which the governing boards of public bodies must conduct their meetings. Generally the law requires board members to be present at the meeting location to participate in the proceedings and be counted as part of the quorum3 with a few exceptions such as that noted above.

The law requires that a board member’s remote location be open and accessible to the public. There are now two exceptions to this requirement. The first was added last year and applies to board members serving in the military. The most recent exception applies when a board member has been advised by a health care professional against being in a public place for personal or family medical reasons.

The most recent exception only applies during and 60 days after a declaration of state of emergency under Minnesota Statutes, Section 12.31 ends.

These exceptions can be used by a board member no more than three times in a calendar year.

When conducting a meeting pursuant to Section 13D.02, all votes must be conducted via roll call.

Amended Law’s Provisions

The language of Minnesota Statutes, Section 13D.02, subdivision 1 now reads:

  1. A meeting governed by section 13D.01, subdivisions 1, 2, 4, and 5, and this section may be conducted by interactive television so long as:
    1. all members of the body participating in the meeting, wherever their physical location, can hear and see one another and can hear and see all discussion and testimony presented at any location at which at least one member is present;
    2. members of the public present at the regular meeting location of the body can hear and see all discussion and testimony and all votes of members of the body;
    3. at least one member of the body is physically present at the regular meeting location;
    4. all votes are conducted by roll call so each member’s vote on each issue can be identified and recorded; and
    5. each location at which a member of the body is present is open and accessible to the public.
  2. A meeting satisfies the requirements of paragraph (a), although a member of the public body participates from a location that is not open or accessible to the public, if the member has not participated more than three times in a calendar year from a location that is not open or accessible to the public, and:
    1. the member is serving in the military and is at a required drill, deployed, or on active duty; or
    2. the member has been advised by a health care professional against being in a public place for personal or family medical reasons. This clause only applies when a state of emergency has been declared under section 12.31, and expires 60 days after the removal of the state of emergency.

Procedural requirements of this section remain unchanged. The public body must provide notice of the location of the regular meeting and notice of any site from which a member of the body will participate. Notice must be provided in the manner required by statute for regular, special or emergency meetings.

To the extent practical, the public body must allow a person to monitor the meeting electronically from a remote location. The public body may charge the person a fee for any documented marginal costs that the public body incurs as a result of the additional connection.

The minutes for a meeting conducted under this section must reflect the names of any members appearing by interactive television and state the reason or reasons for the appearance by interactive television.

1 Minn. Stat. § 13D.021 also allows meetings via telephone or other electronic means during a health pandemic or an emergency declared under chapter 12. More information on that provision is provided in “Data Practices and Open Meeting Requirements During a State of Emergency,” Minnesota Department of Administration, MN.gov/admin

2 Minn. Dept. of Admin. Advisory Op. 13-009

3 The minimum number of board members that must be present at a meeting to make the proceedings of that meeting valid