With the option to hold virtual public meetings set to expire statewide on July 15, the Massachusetts House of Representatives today voted to extend remote access to public meetings until March 31, 2023. The House also amended the bill to require public meetings to be hybrid thereafter to ensure that members of the public can remotely access and participate in public meetings, in addition to the option of attending in person.
Advocates—including the ACLU of Massachusetts, Boston Center for Independent Living, Common Cause Massachusetts, Disability Law Center, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, MASSPIRG, New England First Amendment Coalition, and New England Newspaper & Press Association—released the following joint statement in response:
“We applaud the legislature for consistently appreciating the importance of remote access to public meetings. We are deeply grateful to Chairman Cabral for his leadership in filing this amendment, and to Representative Garlick and Senator Lewis for filing the initial legislation to ensure hybrid access and participation in public meetings. Across the Commonwealth, remote access to public meetings has significantly increased public participation in state and local government, and has lowered longstanding barriers for people with disabilities, people with limited access to transportation, and people with work and family obligations. We urge the legislature to ensure that the final legislation includes a permanent requirement for hybrid public meetings.”