INTRODUCTION OF HOUSE BILL TO ALLOW PUBLIC BODIES TO MEET REMOTELY DURING STATES OF EMERGENCY
House Bill 557 was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives on March 16, 2020 to enact Ohio Revised Code Section 121.221, which provides an exception to the “in-person” attendance requirement of Section 121.22(C), to permit public bodies to meet remotely during states of emergency. The Bill seeks to amend the open meeting procedures to allow members of a public body to meet remotely, either through teleconference or video conference, for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present. Passage of this Bill would allow public bodies to conduct their open meetings during states of emergency, such as the current COVID-19 response state of emergency. Currently, and prior to this Bill, public bodies are not permitted to conduct public meeting remotely, instead requiring personal attendance at meetings.
Importantly, this Bill requires that the public body make provisions for public attendance at a location involved in the teleconference or video conference. While this portion of the Bill is not further defined, it likely requires that the public be provided an opportunity to attend any teleconference or video conference in the same manner as the members of the public body.
The Bill makes it so that it would be effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature. A copy of HB 557 language can be viewed using the following link: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-documents?id=GA133-HB-557
We anticipate that a vote on this Bill will occur this week following debate and comments. Watch for further updates following any voting by the House of Representatives. If you have any questions regarding HB 557 and its effect on open meeting for public bodies please contact one of our attorneys.