Senate Majority Leader Sharon Hewitt's Louisiana Senate Bill 201 is a comprehensive framework that lays out the requirements for public entities to hold remote meetings via electronic means. The bill seeks to accomplish three things:
The bill replaces the current piecemeal approach of individual board and commissions seeking permission one-by-one and creates a standard operating procedure. It is the product of the efforts of the Task Force on Remote Operations of Public Entities, which conducted numerous public hearings and generated recommendations for legislation after examining and discussing relevant issues.
The bill applies to public bodies as defined in R.S. 42:13(A)(3), which excludes the legislature. There is a primary distinction between remote meetings for local and statewide public bodies. While those classified as local bodies will always be required to meet in person, statewide bodies will be allowed a prescribed number of remote meetings if they meet the bill's criteria, which are listed below:
Some statewide bodies whose primary focus is dealing with disability issues will be allowed to hold unlimited remote meetings. These statewide bodies include:
The Legislative Auditor will audit the policies and practices of statewide public bodies and advisory councils to ensure compliance with the law.
Below are a list of the provisions that must be met in order to conduct remote meetings. This is a summary and not an exhaustive list. Please also refer to the bill for additional information and to make sure requirements are met.
All remote meetings shall originate from a physical anchor location. The anchor location is the public location where the entity normally holds in-person meetings or a location specifically equipped with technology for remote meetings. Any member of the public entity or public at-large may participate in person at the anchor location.
All board or commission member and members of the public with an ADA-recognized disability shall be afforded an opportunity to participate remotely. This includes a minimum of audio participation and video participation when feasible.
All remote meetings shall be recorded and made available to the public in an online archive located on the entity's website. Additionally, all remote meetings shall be conducted with a mechanism to receive public comment.
All meeting notice's shall include information about all participation options. Additionally, all meeting materials that are available to physically present members of the public shall also be made available online in real-time as they are introduced.
Cameras shall be required to be turned on at all times during remote meetings except during executive session. Also, all votes taken in the meeting shall be done by roll call vote. If a problem occurs that causes the meeting to no longer be visible or audible to the public, the meeting shall be recessed until the problem is resolved. If the problem is not resolved in two hours or less, the meeting shall be adjourned.
In summary, the Louisiana Senate Bill 201 aims to modernize the public sector by creating a standard operating procedure for remote meetings. This bill seeks to increase transparency and participation while providing more opportunities for disabled citizens to participate in government. It also outlines provisions for conducting remote meetings to ensure accessibility, public participation, and to ensure technical requirements are met. This is a summary of the bill provided for interested parties and may not list all the legal requirements. To find out more information, please read the bill on the Louisiana Legislature website.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BATON ROUGE, LA - The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee today approved SB 201, sponsored by Majority Leader Sharon Hewitt, who also chairs the committee. The bill establishes guidelines for a statewide board, commission, or advisory council to provide remote access for the public to participate in the meetings.
If passed, the legislation provides for teleconference or videoconference access to Louisianans who would not otherwise be able to attend these meetings.
“This legislation provides a mechanism for public comment and participation for Louisianans who may not be able to attend meetings.” Sharon said. “Giving access to those who may have a disability or lack the means to travel will go a long way to restoring people's faith in their government.”
In addition, statewide public bodies that meet a minimum of six times per year will be allowed to hold some meetings remotely, improving the participation rate of board members who travel longer distances to attend in-person meetings. The proposed law also authorizes the La. Commission for the Deaf, La. Developmental Disabilities Council, and state and regional advisory councils of the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities to conduct any meeting via electronic means.
Senator Hewitt expressed gratitude over the favorable committee vote on her proposed legislation and is looking forward to the debate before the full Senate that will take place at a later date.
Bill - 201