NEFAC, Mass. Transparency Advocates to Testify in Support of Guaranteed Hybrid Open Meetings

Testimony to Include Remote Participation From Residents Who Cannot Attend Meetings in Person Due to Disability and Other Constraints

CONTACTS Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

The New England First Amendment Coalition will join open government advocates in Massachusetts to testify on July 26 in support of a legislative proposal to ensure greater access to open meetings for everyone by allowing members of the public to attend meetings in person or remotely.

Disability rights advocates, open government organizations, and other advocates will call for the passage of An Act to Modernize Participation in Public Meetings (H.3040/S.2024) at the Massachusetts State House and virtually, demonstrating that hybrid meetings maximize access to democracy.

Since early 2020, public bodies have been able to carry out their responsibilities in person, remotely, or in a hybrid manner because of pandemic emergency rules. Hybrid meetings have been transformative for members of the public who previously faced barriers attending exclusively in-person meetings — particularly for seniors, people with disabilities, caregiving responsibilities, and limited transportation. The proposed legislation would guarantee maximum public access by requiring public bodies to conduct hybrid meetings, rather than allowing each body to choose whatever format they prefer, regardless of the impact on public access.

An Act to Modernize Participation in Public Meetings, sponsored by Rep. Denise Garlick and Sen. Jason Lewis, will give municipalities more than five years to phase in hybrid meetings and help them finance required changes. Municipal leaders from Provincetown, Sudbury, South Hadley, and Tyngsborough will also testify in support of the bill.

WHAT: Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight hearing on An Act to Modernize Participation in Public Meetings

WHO: Directly impacted residents and advocates including:

• ACLU of Massachusetts
• Boston Center for Independent Living
• Common Cause Massachusetts
• Disability Law Center
• League of Women Voters 0f Massachusetts
• Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association
• New England First Amendment Coalition
• New England Newspaper & Press Association

WHEN: Wednesday, July 26, 1 p.m.

WHERE: Massachusetts State House, Room A-1, Boston, MA 02133

The hearing will also be virtual, here.

Learn more about An Act to Modernize Participation in Public Meetings here.

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

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, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the Champa Charitable Foundation Fund and Connecticut Public.