To: Chairman Marc Pacheco, Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight
Chairman Antonio Cabral, Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight
Members of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight
Fr: Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director, MASSPIRG
June 2, 2021
In Support of An Act to Modernize Participation in Public Meetings, H.3152 & S.2082
Strengthening our Communities by Continuing Accessible Government
MASSPIRG strongly supports the passage of An Act to Modernize Participation in Public Meetings, H.3152 & S.2082, filed by Representative Denise Garlick and Senator Jason Lewis along with a bi-partisan group of more than 60 lawmakers.
MASSPIRG is a statewide, 45-year-old, non-partisan, not for profit, public interest advocacy organization. We work to protect the environment; to encourage a fair, sustainable economy; to promote public health; and to foster responsive, democratic government.
In response to the COVID -19 pandemic, Massachusetts made a number of changes to protect public health while still providing for and allowing for continued public participation and access to government meetings and decision-making, and in our elections.
The temporary changes the legislature adopted last year to provide for safe elections resulted in a record breaking voter turnout despite being in the middle of a pandemic.
Similarly, the Open Meeting Executive Order, adopted on March 12, 2020 in response to COVID-19 modified the Open Meeting Law by allowing virtual/digital access in place of physical access to municipal and other meetings covered under the Open Meeting Law. This change too, has become wildly popular and resulted in more community participation in local governance across the state.
By requiring a remote access option to participate in local government, we “opened up” our Open Meetings. As a result, area residents can more easily participate in decisions about their schools, towns and cities. Parents and caregivers, residents who cannot drive or have no transit access, people who are temporarily out of town, or people with disabilities all benefit from having a way to participate in government without having to physically get to a municipal building to do so. The executive order, however, will expire on June 15, 2021.
More civic participation and involvement in local government will lead to stronger communities. We must continue the remote access to government meetings now that we have all seen the benefits and become equipped in managing the process.
An Act to Modernize Participation in Public Meetings, H.3152 & S.2082 will update the Open Meetings law by making remote access to open meetings a requirement. We hope you will adopt this bill quickly.
Legislative Director, MASSPIRG
Deirdre runs MASSPIRG’s public health, consumer protection and tax and budget programs. Deirdre has led campaigns to improve public records law and require all state spending to be transparent and available on an easy-to-use website, close $400 million in corporate tax loopholes, protect the state’s retail sales laws to reduce overcharges and preserve price disclosures, reduce costs of health insurance and prescription drugs, and more. Deirdre also oversees a Consumer Action Center in Weymouth, Mass., which has mediated 17,000 complaints and returned $4 million to Massachusetts consumers since 1989. Deirdre currently resides in Maynard, Mass., with her family. Over the years she has visited all but one of the state's 351 towns — Gosnold.