Advocates call for public hearing on Open Meetings Law
Nick Reisman is reporting for State of Politics that good-government organizations, press groups, and advocates for people with disabilities in New York last week called for a public hearing on the state's open meetings law after state lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul agreed to allow government bodies to meet remotely until January 15. Local and state government entities must provide electronic access to meetings for the public. The measure was approved as the more contagious delta variant has led to a spike in transmissions and hospitalizations. The state of emergency previously allowed government bodies to meet remotely during the pandemic has expired. Hochul said after signing the measure into law, "This commonsense legislation extends a privilege that not only helps New Yorkers participate safely in the political process, but also increases New Yorkers' access to their government by allowing for more options to view public meetings." However, the new measure has created concerns from open government advocates that in-person access to elected officials will be limited by the move to allow a return to remote meetings. "New Yorkers should not have to choose between remote access and in-person public meetings," a letter from advocacy groups said last week. "It’s possible to do both, and many public agencies have." The groups, including Reinvent Albany, the New York Public Interest Research Group, Common Cause, the New York News Publishers Association and the Center for the Independence of the Disabled, New York, are arguing to continue remote access for people who cannot otherwise attend in-person meetings. According to the coalition's letter, "Unfortunately, many public bodies across the state returned to in-person meetings without remote access and participation for New Yorkers at home. This was a burden for those unable to make it to meeting locations, which can often be hours away." The groups say a public hearing would provide an opportunity for the public, the press, and officials to weigh in on how the Open Meetings Law should be amended to reflect stakeholders’ changing needs. Read the full story at nystateofpolitics [dot] com.