State lawmakers likely extending remote meeting option

Massachusetts lawmakers have worked to pass legislation that would extend the option for town and regional governments across the Commonwealth to hold meetings remotely - MV Times

Massachusetts lawmakers are working to pass legislation that would extend the option for town and regional governments across the Commonwealth to hold meetings remotely.

The current law — initiated at the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic — will expire at the end of the month if no bill is signed by the governor.

The house passed a large spending bill on Wednesday, which includes an extension for remote or hybrid meetings until 2025, and state senators say they could come to a compromise as early as next week. Governor Maura Healey has been supportive of remote meetings as well.

Local lawmakers say remote meetings help Islanders stay engaged with local issues.

“Extending remote access and participation in local issues provides Island towns with needed flexibility,” local state rep Dylan Fernandes told the Martha’s Vineyard Times on Thursday. “Yesterday, we voted to extend remote meetings for another 2 years, which will strengthen the local democratic process.”

Most towns and regional bodies on the Vineyard take advantage of the remote option in some fashion, like Oak Bluffs. The town streams its meetings live and provides board members and the public the option to speak from remote locations, some that might even be on vacation.

While the law was intended to help stop the spread of COVID, it has been viewed as a way to expand transparency of local governments and allowed officials flexibility to work remotely beyond the height of the pandemic.

The Massachusetts Municipal Association — a group that brings town officials together from across the state — has endorsed an extension, saying that remote and hybrid meetings increase transparency and provide town officials flexibility.

“Every city and town in the Commonwealth has dozens of councils, boards and commissions, many of which have relied on the option of remote meetings and the use of virtual platforms to conduct business,” a letter from association executive director and CEO, Geoffrey Beckwith, reads. The letter was sent to the senate president and house speaker at the end of last month. “If the current authorizations lapse, thousands of public entities would be impacted across the state. Extending the current provisions to July 2024 would allow municipalities to maintain consistency while allowing for the flexibility they need to determine the remote options that make sense given limited capacity and limited resources.”

The association does worry about the idea of making remote or hybrid meetings mandatory, which officials say has been floated by some state senators.

“The vast majority of cities and towns lack the technology, staffing, and capacity to implement a mandated approach, since hybrid meetings (simultaneous in-person and remote participation) are much more complicated than all-in-person or all-remote sessions,” Beckwith’s letter states. 

Beckwith also says that an extension of the rules for now makes the best sense, so there could be a broader discussion about how to create a more permanent law.

“An extension to July 2024 would provide the time needed to assess what resources would be required to implement a more complex hybrid approach for more than 10,000 local boards, committees, and commissions,” the letter states.


  1. The virtual meetings need to end-lawmakers claim it adds transparency but what it really does is physically shield them from direct face to face contact with them. It’s a cowardly way to avoid accountability.

  2. I would suggest that they leave zoom meetings, but that the main participants have to be in the building and if the public wants to be there to meet them face-to-face that is available. The public officials love the zoom meeting for many reasons, and one of the main one is they can continue to treat it as an afterthought to their life and not a real commitment.

  3. It’s extremely difficult. Ask any teacher who was required to do this during the pandemic.


  5. I’m torn on this. A friend pointed out that they had unprecedented participation via zoom. If that’s still the case, I can see this still being a viable option.
    However, I think it should be more of a hybrid model, people running the meeting should be there in person for anyone wanting to attend that way. Unless they absolutely cannot attend in person, elected officials should do their best to be there in person for their constituents.

Comments are closed.