BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration announced an emergency order temporarily modifying the state’s open meeting law in order to allow state, quasi and local governments to continue to carry out essential functions and operations during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
This emergency order suspends the requirement for public access to the physical location where a public meeting is taking place, provided there are other means of access available. This includes the use of a phone conference line for members of the public, social media or other internet streaming services, on-line meeting services, or methods of access.
Both the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) have advised residents to take extra measures to put distance between themselves and other people to further reduce the risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Additionally, the CDC and DPH have advised high-risk individuals, including people over the age of 60, anyone with underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system, and pregnant women, to avoid large gatherings.
Additionally, the order relieves the requirement that a quorum of members be physically present at a public meeting. During this period, members may all participate by remote or virtual means.
This order is applicable to meetings of public bodies including commissions, boards, and committees that engage in policy making at the state, quasi and local level, and it does not apply to Town Meetings or judicial and quasi-judicial hearings. It follows Governor Baker’s declaration of a State of Emergency on Wednesday, March 11, and it will remain in place until rescinded or the State of Emergency is terminated.