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State Bill Could Expand Open Meeting Act Rules For Local Gov.

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
State Bill Could Expand Open Meeting Act Rules For Local Gov.

Tennessee’s Local Government Committee is proposing legislation that could extend virtual meeting options for local governments.

The County Commission bill is similar to the one that allows schools boards to meet electronically. As long as the public has access to the quorum at a physical location, the meeting can proceed virtually.

State Representative Ryan Williams is a member of the committee pushing the bill. Williams said while electronic meetings are useful, protecting the public’s right to know would be difficult.

“You can give people access to the meetings, but they don’t have an opportunity to stand before and maybe have a discussion as it relates to subject matters that are interested to them,” Williams said. “And so, having a forum where people can show up at the end of unfinished business and have a discussion about things that are important to them are really important.”

Williams said virtual meetings make more sense for the smaller government entities that do not impact the broad citizenry. Overall, Williams said he sees virtual meetings more as a convenience.

“Most people I know that serves in some elective capacity, they like to be able to get together and to find out and sort through better ideas for their communities,” Williams said. “I don’t think it will be long term.”

The bill’s language is general enough to cover all types of local governing bodies, such as boards of aldermen, city commissions and other sub committees. Williams said he is not interested with seeing state government meeting electronically.

“I think that the best way for us to do it is to look at it on a case-by-case basis,” Williams said. “As you all know, the Speaker of the House here in Nashville has decided to open committee hearing rooms to have all of our discussions live streamed but also, for in-person visits, because we feel like it it really important to have access to the public.”


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