FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 | email@example.com
The New England First Amendment Coalition today asked Massachusetts legislators to ensure funding in the state budget for municipalities in need of remote meeting technology.
Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed $30 million in the general government infrastructure bond bill (H.5065) earlier this month that would support remote and hybrid access to public meetings in cities and towns throughout the state.
Advocates — including NEFAC, 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, Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the New England Newspaper & Press Association — wrote the following in an Aug. 12 letter to state Senate and House leadership:
“For the first time ever, during the COVID pandemic, many people who had previously been excluded from participation in local government because they could not attend meetings in person were suddenly able to engage via remote means in conversations that directly impacted their lives. Across the Commonwealth, remote access to public meetings has significantly increased public participation in state and local government, and has lowered long-standing barriers for people with disabilities, people with limited access to transportation, and people with work and family obligations.”
“We cannot go back to requiring that people be physically present in order to participate in their local government. For this reason, we are so appreciative that the Legislature had the foresight to establish a new line item (1100-2517) in the general bond bill to allocate $30M to support municipal IT infrastructure for public meetings. We hope you will not let the governor’s unjustifiable veto stand.”
NEFAC and its partners in Massachusetts are advocating for legislation (H.3152/S.2082) that would permanently update the Open Meeting Law to require a hybrid meeting format so that members of the public can access and participate in public meetings remotely, in addition to the option of attending in person.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.
Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, Connecticut Public and GBH-Boston.